By Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — Amongst humble furnishings, family photos, and blessed Mary, mother of Jesus, Father Charles Caserta, 85, shared an inspiring story of hope, endless spirit, and faith during a visit at his home. The story begins with a young Air Force captain paralyzed during training nearly four years ago and now residing with family in Cincinnati. In fact, meeting the extraordinary serviceman may have been divine intervention.
While visiting another parishioner in the hospital, the father of the young captain caught sight of Fr. Charles and asked him to see his son, who had been in a terrible accident.
Since that fateful day, Fr. Charles visits with the young man — Jacob — once a week and those weekly visits play a pivotal part in what he calls an early bird special celebration to be held at 7 a.m., Sunday, May 25, at St. Boniface.
“I don’t want a big celebration, all I want is people to help me thank God I’ve been a priest this long, that’s all I want,” said Fr. Charles, who will be joined by his older brother, Father Angelo Caserta, and Father Thomas Bolte during the Mass and celebration of his 60th Ordination Anniversary.
Born and raised in the Piqua community, Fr. Charles has been absent from the immediate area for 71 years after spending one year in Sidney, 30 years in Cincinnati and the remainder in Dayton. He returned to Piqua just last year to help at St. Mary and St. Boniface churches. He has been retired for the last 20 years this coming June, and took time to share how he came to the priesthood — he knew as early as the fourth grade — and subsequently following in his elder brother’s footsteps.
Fr. Charles was ordained at St. Monica Cathedral, Cincinnati, by Archbishop Karl J. Alter, 1954, with his studies taken at St. Gregory Seminary, Cincinnati, and St. Mary of West, Norwood. He held appointments at St. Patrick, St. Agnes, St. Catherine Church, St. Helen Church, Transfiguration of West Milton, among several others, and served as Chaplain of Dayton Serra Club, Deanery Youth Director of Sidney Deanery and assistant at Holy Angels, Sidney, and Sidney Catholic High School.
Fr. Charles has carved his own path, especially when it comes to Jacob, who recently turned 30 years old.
“If I can’t make it, I go another day that week, it means a lot to the family and especially to him,” said Fr. Charles as he shared another reason the young captain is so unique and why Jacob’s photo resides among those of parents and siblings in the Father’s humble surroundings. One day, as Jacob’s father asked why God allowed this accident to happen to his son, Jacob had replied that if not for the accident, they’d have never met Fr. Caserta.
“That shows what kind of person he is,” said Fr. Charles of that humbling moment and that over the last four years, for all the young man has been through, “He never, ever complained, never.”
An invitation has been extended to the community for the Mass of Thanksgiving, where Concelebrants will be Fr. Angelo Caserta and Fr. Thomas Bolte, to celebrate Fr. Charles’ 60th Ordination Anniversary, at 7 a.m. Sunday, May 25, at St. Boniface.
A breakfast will follow Mass in the Caserta Activity Center.
The celebration brings Fr. Charles full circle as his first Mass was held at St. Boniface 60 years ago.
Bethany J. Royer may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall