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December 20, 2009

Prayer time: before the phones start ringing

By Dolores Madlener



Father Thomas Kasputis, pastor of St. Rene Goupil, stands next to his 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser that has 200,000 miles. Like forgiveness, he says if his vintage car “is not totally broken, I fix it.” Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Thomas Kasputis, pastor of St. Rene Goupil Parish on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Family: “I’m an only child of Joseph and Stephany. My grandparents came from Lithuania around 1900. “Dad worked in a machine shop at 44th and Western in Brighton Park. It was a simple bus ride to get to work.”

Do you cook Lithuanian? “I do. I have some of my mother’s recipes. I’ve done kugelis on my own, which is a big deal. It’s probably the most complicated recipe. For Thanksgiving I cook Lithuanian sausage and also bring bacon buns from the Lithuanian deli in our neighborhood to my cousins on the North Side.”

Youth: He attended Nativity BVM School in Marquette Park, then Quigley South, Niles College and St. Mary of the Lake. “At Nativity we had 45 kids in each class. I played on the block with kids, did bike trips or hiked over to Marquette Park to watch the model boats up and down the lagoon.”

Why priesthood? “I suppose it was the faith of my mother. Sunday was Sunday growing up. It felt different. It was important. We’d go to church and visit family and have a Sunday meal. That’s something I’m trying to invite the families at St. Rene’s to rediscover — sharing a family meal on Sundays. People are pulled in so many directions.”

Wheels: “Before ordination I was driving a 1972 Ford Maverick. Then I inherited the family’s ’67 Chevy Impala — a big boat. I graduated into a Jeep Cherokee for a while. I bought a 1984 Land Cruiser, and still have it, along with my mother’s ’76 Chevy now, with 35,000 miles on it. They both need a little work. It’s not a hobby. I don’t throw anything away. If it’s not totally broken, I fix it.”

Best thing about pastoring: “Working with people who really ‘get it.’ We’re doing Christ Renews His Parish at St. Rene’s. It’s for our 50th anniversary. It’s like RCIA for people that were already Catholics.”

Prayer? “I pray before the day begins. The first hour before phones start ringing. I got in the habit of reading something from a book called “All Saints” by Robert Ellsberg. It helps me feel connected with the communion of saints.”

Favorite saint: “Probably my mother.”

Relaxation: “Music and reading. My likes are eclectic, from blues to country to classical. Over the last year I discovered Arvo Pärt, a modern Estonian classical composer. I like Dion of Dion & the Belmonts’ classic blues. I like picking up a throw-away novel now and then. I picked up ‘People of the Book’ in Borders. It’s a novel by Geraldine Brooks. It’s very well done.

“I remember as a teenager, reading Tolkien’s [Lord of the Rings] trilogy. My mother read it and liked it. She was in her 80s when we saw all three movies. We lost her in June of 2008 at age 93. Still sharp, doing her stuff. She took up art and started painting in her 80s. I have bits of her art around the rectory.”

Vacation: “Since being a solo priest here I do little junkets. In July I went to Kankakee State Park for a few days with a friend.

Sports “It’s getting harder to be a Bears fan.” Any pets? “No kids, no pets, that’s my motto.”

Favorite saying: “Romans, chapter 8: ‘There is nothing that can separate us from the love God has for us.’ That’s been my focus.”