A priest with area ties has begun leading St. Caspar Catholic Church in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and said the threat of COVID-19 has made 2020 an especially important time for prayer.
Todd Dominique, who assumed the role of pastor at the Wauseon church July 1, has therefore initiated “19 Minutes of Prayer” at St. Caspar the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. He said it’s an ideal time to pray for everyone who, in some manner, is facing the COVID-19 issue.
“The time is really important right now for us to be a people of prayer,” he said.
Pastor Dominique, 53, was assigned to St. Caspar by Diocese of Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas after serving five years at St. Wendelin’s Church in Fostoria. He replaced Pastor Dan Tabor.
He said the pandemic has brought challenges to the parish but none that can’t be overcome. The Mass schedule remains in effect, albeit with precautions attached to ensure a safe environment. Following state mandates, Pastor Dominique presides over each service wearing a mask, and congregants are encouraged to do the same. Social distancing is practiced, hand sanitizer is used, and surfaces are cleaned after each gathering.
“We are an essential place. We need prayer in our lives. It’s important,” Pastor Dominique said. “We really have streamlined the experience for folks. We’re prepared to gather together, and we’re trying to come to a place where it seems like we’re normal or in a new normal.”
Other church activities have been canceled for now. St. Caspar plans to start adult education programs in September, though the parish is following cues from local school districts during the pandemic. “I am meeting with leadership groups. COVID is always a concern in front of us,” he said.
He still attends the sick and dying of the parish, but COVID-19 makes him unable to socially visit with parishioners, accept their invitations to special events or gather with them after Mass for fellowship.
“As much as I want to attend those for the sake of others, I’ve just been trying to lay low and do what I can,” Pastor Dominique said. “Nothing in my heart would be more enjoyable than knocking on doors and visiting longtime parishioners and new parishioners. The day will come for that.”
A native of Montpelier, Pastor Dominique was ordained in 1994. He grew up in a family that, while not overly-religious, was committed to its Roman Catholic faith.
He said he felt the stirrings of priesthood as far back as second grade, although he experienced no great epiphany about giving his life to God. “You begin praying and asking God what he wants you to do, and He’s pretty good about answering,” he said. “Due to the spirit within and without, you follow that direction. If you listen, God will tell you.”
And despite requesting the assignment at St. Caspar, in part to be closer to home and family, making the transition to a new parish every few years can be difficult, Pastor Dominique said. “But at the same time, it’s the life you sign up for,” he added.
His priorities at St. Caspar will be celebration and worship — what he calls “the weekend experience” — and religious education, which he holds in high esteem.
“It’s at the forefront here,” he said. “It’s not just for kids; it’s religious education for everyone. Our focus is on becoming mature Christians through our education.”
A shortage of priests leaves Pastor Dominique alone in his duties at St. Caspar. He said the days of assigning three or more priests to one parish are over. But he added that the challenge of presiding over a church “is always to have good people surrounding you…As long as you have good people in the parish, the ministry of the priest is always something that can be easily done.”
An avid reader, especially of history, Pastor Dominique also enjoys golf, bike riding, and walking in his leisure time. In his quest to encourage people back to the church, he cites the tagline the Kellogg Company used to tout its cornflakes during its 75th anniversary: “Taste them again for the very first time.”
“Try St. Caspar again for the very first time,” he said. “I know a lot of people left church before COVID. But with our focus on worship and education, I think people will know we’re here, and it’s time for more prayers than we normally do.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.