Posts Tagged ‘Father David Toups’


Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

With Father Thomas Stokes, S.M.

On Sunday for the second Sunday in a row, I was present for the 10:00am Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in the Ybor City District of Tampa. The previous week, I formally installed Father Roland LaJoie, S.M. as pastor and this week I surprised the previous pastor by showing up unannounced for this final Mass at the parish. Father Thomas Stokes, S.M., a Marist priest, born in Ireland, has been ordained for fifty-one years, forty-nine of which he has ministered in the United States of America, the last twenty-six as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Father Tom is simply an amazing priest. The word “no” is not to be found in his vocabulary. When the growing Haitian population needed a place for their new Haitian priest to offer Mass on Sunday, Father Tom said, “Of course, you will be welcome at OLPH.” Mass is also offered in Spanish for a community which is rich in numerous Hispanic ecclesial cultures. In fact, the doors of OLPH have always had a big welcome sign from the early days of the last century when the Cuban population descended on Ybor City in great number, establishing their cigar production facilities and successfully finding security here in west central Florida. When I came to the diocese, soon to be seventeen years ago, I was told that there did not seem to be a great future for Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish and I might have to close it. Those prognostications failed to take into account the energy, zeal and love of Father Stokes. My chair was not warm yet when he came and asked to build a lovely parish social center, which is paid for. Then he came and sought permission to renovate the old parish school and convent building which previously had been used for Cursillos but was in a growing state of disrepair. He did it and paid for it. When the diocese needed a place for its seminarians during the summer they would be doing their clinical pastoral education at Tampa General Hospital, Father Stokes opened up the Rectory to the men who found his Irish hospitality and his priestly zeal captivating.

There were a lot of tears yesterday at all the Masses when Father Thomas Stokes bade his farewell, including my own. Words can never adequately express the love and gratitude of a parish community and sometimes even a bishop for a man who for twenty-six years lived in the middle of weekend chaos in Ybor City and loved it there. The Hispanics, the Filipinos, the Anglos all lined up for pictures with this lovely man and to say farewell. Father Stokes is returning to his native Ireland to help take care of his brother and  sisters as they too age and it is doubtful we shall see him again anytime soon. I may have totally surprised him by my presence at Sunday’s Mass but nothing about his ministry ever surprised me. He is one of the great generation, as was Father Sanchez, and as is Monsignor Higgins who have all served central Tampa so well over the years. Now, Tom, as the Irish saying goes, “may the road indeed rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. . . .until we meet again.”

The seven bishops of Florida met this week as the Board of Trustees of Saint John Vianney College Seminary and the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul and as the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. The first meeting was in Miami and I was unable to attend because of the opening celebration of Tampa Catholic’s Fiftieth Anniversary. However, I did join my brothers for the latter two at our theology house in Boynton Beach.

Father Toups making his promises before God, the bishops of Florida, and the seminary community. Photo and caption kindness of Father Len Plazewski.

During that occasion, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski formally installed our own Father David Toups as Rector-President (click here for a few more photos). Father Toups, for two brief but memorable years, was pastor of Christ the King parish in south Tampa. Looking out at the assembled guests during the installation Mass, I would swear that fifty-percent of the several hundred in attendance were Christ the King parishioners who had traveled the 200 plus miles for the installation Mass. It was a happy occasion for the seminary community to be sure, for the bishop owners of the seminary for whom the person serving as Rector holds so much of our trust, and it should be for the Church in Florida as well. Father’s mother, Lynn, was present as were his aunt and uncle. We have two wonderful priests of this diocese now who are devoted to the education of our future priests (both of whom went to St. Vincent de Paul Seminary from being pastors of Christ the King), Monsignor Michael Muhr and Father David Toups. We are a relatively small diocese which might normally not be expected to give this high level of talent to a seminary, but you and I value the formation of priests so highly that how could we not invest in the future by giving the seminary some of our great priestly talent? I think God is already paying up back for our sacrifice with fine newly ordained priests and more on the way. So life has been a series these past two weeks of goings and comings. Praise be Jesus Christ!



Monday, January 9th, 2012

On Friday of this week, while on retreat with twenty-five others bishops of the Atlantic region at Bethany Center, word came that Pope Benedict XVI had named new cardinals and called a consistory to install them for mid-February. There was a time and quite recently, that the naming of cardinals was a major secret, shared by the Holy Father with a few others whom he consulted, but this group was anything but a “pontifical secret” as the Italian press not only knew a week in advance the date of the consistory but had the names of most of those archbishops and bishops who would be elevated to the College of Cardinals.

Among their number are two Americans whom I admire and for whom I am happy, as well as happy for the Church. I have known Cardinal-designate Edwin O’Brien since the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States. At that time, he was secretary to Cardinal Cooke who would be hosting the pope during his stay in New York. I have known Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan since the mid-eighties when I returned to Washington to work at the bishops’ conference and he was working at the Apostolic Delegation (only later with full diplomatic recognition first given by President Ronald Reagan would it be called the Apostolic Nunciature). At that time, working alongside of soon-to-be Cardinal Dolan were now Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Bishop Blasé Cupich, Bishop Michael Cote, and a saintly priest named Monsignor Bernard Yarrish of the Scranton diocese who subsequently was diagnosed with MS and is today in a nursing home in Wilkes-Barre, PA. They were a wonderful group of men who made our work, then at the other end of Massachusetts Avenue, easy and easily conducted between Archbishop Pio Laghi and ourselves a delight (as did the Apostolic Delegate/Nuncio Laghi). We would recreate together on occasion but it was always hard to get on Father Dolan’s dance card as it filled up quickly with friends and acquaintances of his in and around Washington (he had studied Church history under the famous Monsignor John Tracy Ellis at Catholic University, earning a doctorate).

In my lifetime as a priest, the role of cardinal in the Church in the United States has morphed somewhat and this occurred during the early days of the papacy of John Paul II. It was often said in the years following the Council that a Cardinal could not be elected President of the Conference of Bishops. While Detroit’s John Dearden,  Baltimore’s William Keeler, Chicago’s Joseph Bernardin were all presidents and cardinals, they did not become the latter until first elected the former. Until Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George four years ago, only Philadelphia’s John Cardinal Krol had been elected president while a member of the College of Cardinals. On three occasions, usually in closed session, I have heard three different archbishops ask rhetorically when baffled by an instance of cardinalatial intervention in a diocese, “what did I miss in ecclesiology about the role of cardinals in the life of my archdiocese?” Pope John Paul II early on decided that the College of Cardinals in addition to electing his successor would be an advisory council to him on important matters and, on occasion, his personal representation in a specific country at a specific time. In 1983, it was clear that he trusted and entrusted his new definition of the role of cardinals to Cardinals Law of Boston and O’Connor of New York. It was no secret that Pope Paul VI, while still alive and contemplating the meaning of episcopal collegiality and shared responsibility, was thinking seriously of inviting the duly elected presidents of episcopal conferences to vote in conclave for future popes. Cardinals working in the Holy See itself talked him out of it. He did make a number of them angry, however, when he limited their participation in papal elections to only those cardinals less than eighty years of age. That antagonism remains but the decision has also survived three popes.

But I digress (badly looking at the word count). Cardinal-designate Dolan enters the college as the sitting president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He already represents us well, in my opinion, here in the United States where he is both clear and compassionate in articulating Church teaching. Like myself, he clearly wants more people to join the Church than be driven from it. One should not under estimate his intellect because driving that delightful sense of self-deprecating humor is a keen intellect with probably one of the best memories of the history of the Church in even more difficult times, both here in the United States and throughout the world. People like him and through him they come to like the Church better. I suspect that fifty years from now, his place in American Catholic church history will be both proud and assured. From St. Louis and a die-hard Cardinal’s fan, he is now one himself – maybe not “Stan the Man” Musial but “Tim the Man” Dolan.

Cardinal-designate O’Brien has been a wonderful archbishop for Baltimore and since all his auxiliaries were on retreat with me last week, I know they already are missing him since his appointment as Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher a few months ago. When his successor is installed in America’s oldest diocese, he will be full time in Rome. He will represent the true and best of the church in the United States well over there.

One final local note. Both Archbishops O’Brien and Dolan served as rectors of the North American College in Rome. Two of their students, Fathers Kenneth Malley, pastor of St. Timothy’s parish in Lutz and David Toups, pastor of Christ the King parish in Tampa plan to be present on February 18th and 19th when their two former rectors are given the red hat of cardinal by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s. And just prior to the consistory, another superb American cardinal, Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. will be the principal speaker at our annual Catholic Foundation dinner in February 11th in Tampa at the A La Carte Pavilion. Cardinal Wuerl was also on retreat last week at the Bethany Center with me and he is looking forward to his next visit to the Bay Area from which he will fly directly to Houston to formally begin the new Anglican Ordinariate in the United States. Dolan, having previously given the talk, and Cardinal O’Brien, often a visitor here, lead me to close with “some roads may lead to Rome but all roads lead to the Diocese of St. Petersburg.”