Father Caster, Father Sauppé celebrating 25 years of priesthood ordination
Father Gary Caster and Father Timothy Sauppé are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their ordination to the priesthood with Masses and social gatherings this weekend.
Father Caster, who has served as the Catholic chaplain at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, since 2007, will celebrate the 7, 8:30 and 11 a.m. Masses this Sunday, Dec. 17, at St. Patrick in Washington. A reception will be held after each liturgy.
Father Sauppé will be honored at a parish gathering following the 4 p.m. Mass on Dec. 16 at St. Mary in Westville, where he is pastor. He is also the spiritual leader for St. Isaac Jogues in Georgetown.
They were ordained on Dec. 19, 1992, by Bishop (now Archbishop) John J. Myers at St. Pius X Church in Rock Island, where they had ministered during their priestly formation. It was the first ordination for diocesan priests to take place outside St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
Eleven other men — Father Michael J. Driscoll, Father Glenn J. Fontana, Father William M. Gardner, Father Glenn H. Harris, Father Gregory J. Jozefiak, Father James E. King, Father Edward S. Kopec, Msgr. Timothy Nolan, Father Edward U. Ohm, Msgr. Richard R. Soseman and Father Binh K. Tran — had been ordained by Bishop Myers on May 23, 1992, at the cathedral. It was the largest group to be ordained for the Diocese of Peoria in 35 years.
These 11 priests were featured in Jubilarians 2017, a special section of The Catholic Post published as part of the May 21 issue.
Father Caster and Father Sauppé asked to be featured closer to their ordination date and brief profiles for each follow.
“I have the best life of anybody I know,” Father Caster said as he talked about his 25 years of priestly ministry. “I have a life that is so undeserved.”
Speaking warmly about the “amazing people” of the Diocese of Peoria, he added, “God continues to spoil me.”
Born in Lynwood, California, Father Caster said he knew he wanted to be a priest after a profound encounter with Jesus when he was 9. “Part of that experience of meeting Christ was that he wanted me to serve him as a priest,” he told The Catholic Post.
He applied to be a seminarian when he was a senior in high school, only to be denied. Confused, he went on to earn a degree in philosophy and French from the University of Southern California and got a good job, but the desire to be a priest never went away.
Father Caster moved to Europe and visited many approved Marian apparition sites to ask Our Lady if she would “nag” her Son to let him know what he was supposed to do with his life. One day in Germany, he had another profound experience of Jesus and learned what he needed to know. He returned to the United States and two days later was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Orange in California.
Sent to The Catholic University of America for advanced studies in philosophy, he met some seminarians from the Diocese of Peoria and said, “I liked that these guys were in a program that had a definite vision of priestly life and priestly service. That was attractive to me.”
After visiting Peoria, making a retreat with the seminarians and then serving at St. Paul in Danville, he told Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke, “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
He completed his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he earned master’s degrees in divinity and church history.
Father Caster served briefly at St. Patrick in Washington before being named chaplain at Peoria Notre Dame High School. He added chaplaincy at St. Joseph Newman Center at Bradley University in 1994. He would also minister at the St. Robert Bellarmine Newman Center at Illinois State University in Normal.
He assisted Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, with special projects, then returned to the Washington parish and helped at St. Luke in Eureka in 2006.
In addition to working with students of all faiths at Williams College, Father Caster gives parish missions and has authored six books: “Mary, In Her Own Words: The Mother of God in Scripture,” “The Little Way of Lent,” “The Little Way of Advent,” “Joseph, the Man Who Raised Jesus,” and “Inspired: The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit.” The sixth, which will be published by Servant Press in 2018, is “Just Let Him Love You.”
Another satisfying aspect of his ministry has been the opportunity to work with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity at various points in his life. He takes the college students to one of the community’s homes in the Washington, D.C., area to give them an opportunity to serve, too.
Mail for Father Caster may be sent to him at Williams College, 39 Chapin Hall Drive, Williamstown, MA 01267.
Like Father Caster, Father Sauppé made his way to the Diocese of Peoria through his interaction with seminarians from central Illinois while he was studying in Washington, D.C.
Born in Milwaukee, Father Sauppé earned a degree in business administration from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. Thinking there must be more to life, however, he found himself seriously considering the priesthood and asked the Lord, “If you’re calling me to the priesthood let me know now and not 30 years from now.”
“I had to give the Lord a good shot, the first chance,” he told The Post.
He entered the Discalced Carmelite community at Holy Hill, Wisconsin, in 1982. After completing postulancy and the novitiate, he began his studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in 1984, earning a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and a master’s of divinity degree.
Father Sauppé left the Carmelite community in 1989, but continued his studies for a license in sacred theology at the Pope John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, also in the nation’s capital.
When the Diocese of Peoria kept coming up in prayer, he applied to Father (now Msgr.) Steven Rohlfs, the vocation director, to be accepted as a seminarian. He was sent to St. Pius X in Rock Island for pastoral experience in 1991, and was ordained a transitional deacon in August 1992.
He has served as parochial vicar in Monmouth, Oquawka, Raritan, and Rock Island, and chaplain at Alleman High School, also in Rock Island. He was named pastor at Sacred Heart in Annawan and St. Mary in Hooppole in 1997, adding St. Patrick in Sheffield in 2004. He has been pastor in Westville since 2008 and Georgetown since 2013.
What has given him the most joy in his priesthood is defending and teaching the Catholic faith. Happiest moments include celebrating marriages.
Father Sauppé said people may not realize it, but priestly ministry is different every day.
“In one day you could be anointing a dying woman in the morning, hearing a confession of a young father in the afternoon, and teaching RCIA in the evening,” he explained.
A staunch respect life advocate, Father Sauppé has also become outspoken on the subject of light pollution and its effects on wildlife and plant life, as well as human beings. A recent study showed that this is growing by as much as 2 percent a year.
“If we don’t stop, our children and grandchildren won’t be able to see the Milky Way. They won’t be able to see the glory of God in the heavens,” he said. “This is so simple. We can fix it if we just make a concerted effort.”
Father Sauppé is open to giving talks on the subject. For more information, call him at (217) 267-3334.
Mail for Father Sauppé may be sent to him at St. Mary Church, 231 N. State St., Westville, IL 61883.