Of pastors and pastas
The Cincinnati archdiocese’s oldest active priest remains active indeed.
“I just got back from Mass,” Father Angelo Caserta said today at his Piqua home, a couple of blocks from St. Boniface Church where he celebrates Holy Mass at least twice a week. “I assist however I can. I hear confessions and do a lot of counseling. I also go to the hospital and I pray over people.”
Although he officially retired more than two decades ago, Father Caserta said his continued ministries are typical for retired priests, who serve in a wide spectrum of ways as their health permits.
“We’re willing to be available for the sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass and confessions, and ministering to the community, the health community for example,” he said. “A lot of priests are involved as chaplains.”
Father Caserta was born about a month after World War I ended. “I’ll be in 97 in December if God permits it,” he said.
He attributes his health and longevity to “the Lord returning the fruits of the sacrifices I made, from when I was little and on up. In the seminary I began abstaining from certain foods. I did start the bad habit of smoking when I was in the seminary but I gave it up when I got ordained.”
His ordination came in February 1945, during World War II. (The photo at right is of Father Caserta’s ordination dinner. He’s seated between his parents Charles and Nancy Caserta.)
This year, Father Caserta celebrated a Mass at St. Boniface marking his 70th anniversary as a priest.
He said the biggest change he’s seen in Church life during his priesthood was “the Church opening itself to having laity participate in the liturgy.”
“It’s a great blessing for the Church to have lay people proclaim readings of Scripture at the Mass, and getting people involved in the sacramental life of the Church,” he said.
Father Caserta grew up in a devout Catholic family as one of 11 children born to Sicilian immigrant parents. He was valedictorian at Piqua High School in 1936 and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Gregory’s Seminary (left) in Mount Washington. From there, he studied theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Norwood.
Over the years Father Caserta’s assignments have included teaching math at Elder High School. He also held various faculty positions at St. Gregory’s Seminary and Mount St. Mary’s of the West.
He was pastor at St. Lawrence parish in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhood from 1970 to 1984, before returning to his native Piqua for a pastorship at St. Boniface. He retired in 1993 but has since served St. Boniface as an associate pastor and assisting priest.
“I always made myself available to people whenever they called or saw someone in need,” he said. “I tried to put the Gospel of Christ No. 1 for my priestly life. The Lord rewarded me richly by letting me touch people’s lives.”
Ever mindful of Our Lord’s instruction for priests to “feed My sheep,” Father Caserta also has fed the wider community in a secular sense with “Father Caserta’s Italian Supreme Products,” a popular spaghetti sauce based on his mother’s recipe. Sales of the sauce have funded a trust for the welfare of children.
Last month, the civic organization Citizens for a Better Piqua honored him with its “Pass the Positive” award for community service, and passed the sauce while doing so. “It’s my mother’s recipe but I added a little more spice,” Father Caserta said. “It’s a first-class sauce.”
Father Tom Bolte, pastor at St. Boniface and its sister Piqua parish, St. Mary’s, said Father Caserta’s service has been immeasurable.
“He’s known as ‘The Living Saint of Piqua’ for his compassion, his willingness to visit hospitals, and for his living the teachings of Jesus,” Father Bolte said.
The pastor noted that Father Caserta also received the Order of George Lifetime Achievement Award last year, presented by the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce in recognition of outstanding community service.
Father Caserta is among the stalwart supporters for One Faith, One Hope, One Love. St. Boniface and St. Mary parishes both have surpassed their local goals.
“I made a contribution,” Father Caserta said. “I gave the top amount they asked me for, because it’s the work of the Lord as directed by the archbishop, who sees the whole plan. He knows we all need to sacrifice and spread the Gospel.”
The sister parishes plan to spend their local shares on renovations and various outreaches. Father Bolte said the repairs includes a new roof for St. Mary’s, estimated at between $130,000 and $150,000. St. Boniface’s upgrades include replacing the floor of the Caserta Activity Center, named for Father Caserta, as well as work on offices and parking areas.
One of the overall campaign’s five major priorities is Care for Retired Priests, to see that faithful shepherds like Father Caserta don’t have to face financial uncertainty. Ten percent of the campaign goal has been allocated to meet our obligations toward those who have worked so long for us.
“The archdiocese has been very, very attentive to the spiritual needs of the priests, making sure we have priests to go to for counseling, that there are support groups, that we have all the spiritual weapons to make our priesthood more fruitful,” he said.
“Priests are promoting the Scripture and living out the precepts of the Church, setting the examples.”
It’s a mission he says he’ll continue as long as God lets him.
“My time is the Lord’s time,” he said.
Father Caserta’s spaghetti sauce
• 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
• 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
• 6 oz. can tomato paste
• 3 tbsp. garlic powder or minced garlic
• 3 tbsp. onion powder
• 3 tbsp. basil
• 2 tbsp. oregano
• 1 cup fresh parsley
• 1 diced medium onion
• 6 oz. extra virgin olive oil
• 6 oz. of semi-sweet wine (such as Zinfandel)
Cook on low to medium-low heat for at least four to six hours.
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