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Springfield pastor finds cooking relaxing, priestly

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In order to mark the Year for Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI, The Catholic Telegraph will feature a series of regular articles profiling area clergy members. It is our hope these stories will enable Catholics in the archdiocese to come to know our priests better as they share their vocations, ministries and interests.

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

SPRINGFIELD DEANERY — There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal and good conversation to bring people together, nourishing body and soul and building community. That’s what Father Dennis Caylor, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Raphael parishes in Springfield, enjoys most about cooking.

But, there is also much more to Father Caylor’s story. A Springfield native, who grew up in St. Joseph Parish, he recalls how supportive Catholic culture was of vocations. “It got children thinking about religious vocations and what a gift it is to be called,” he said. “I was encouraged by the people of the parish and the priests and Sisters that served there.”

Father Dennis Caylor enjoys the opportunity to put his culinary skills to use. (CT/Eileen Connelly, OSU)

It was their encouragement that led Father Caylor to enter the Marianist community as a postulant after completing his freshman year at Catholic Central High School. Looking back, Father Caylor acknowledges that while his call to the priesthood was strong, he was too young at the time to properly discern a vocation. He left the community and entered the University of Dayton as a regular student.

His college and job experience, which included working on the loading docks at a trucking company and as a hospital orderly, gave Father Caylor the insight and independence he needed to further explore his vocation. “I kept feeling the pull to the priesthood,’ he said. “It was about my relationship with Christ. I had to be honest with that relationship and about what God was asking me to do. Working and going to college gave me the maturity to discern that.”

Ready to answer God’s call, Father Caylor entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in 1969 and was ordained on May 30, 1975. He spent his first four years in ministry as an associate pastor at parishes in Cincinnati Dayton. In 1979 Father Caylor was sent to Rome to earn a degree in canon law. He then returned to Cincinnati to work in the archdiocesan Tribunal Office from 1981-1995, becoming the judicial vicar for the archdiocese, while also teaching at the seminary. He was named pastor of St. Veronica Parish in 1994, St. Raphael in 1998, and St. Joseph four years later. The two Springfield parishes “work together as one, but remain canonically distinct,” Father Caylor explained.

His interest in cooking developed while serving his deacon assignment at St. the former St. Agnes Parish in Dayton. “We didn’t always have a cook, so I became interested in preparing Chinese food and would cook for friends or just the pastor and myself,” Father Caylor explained.

Then, while studying in Rome, he came to love the Italian language food and culture, especially the Italian practice of lingering over a meal, rather than rushing it, and enjoying the conversation as much as the food. Father Caylor enjoys creating that experience for family and friends, preparing recipes from the impressive collection of Italian cookbooks that line a shelf in his kitchen. “Italian food is more than just spaghetti and meatballs. There’s a wonderful variety,” he said.

Father Caylor’s favorite dish to prepare, and the most popular among his guests, is rigatoni alla carbonara, a simple, yet tasty, pasta dish that features pancetta (cured Italian meat), mixed with raw eggs, parmesan cheese and “a lot of pepper” among its ingredients. “It’s important to get a good cheese,” he said, “and you can use salt pork in place of the pancetta.”

Because of the time involved in shopping for and preparing a homemade meal, including making his sauces from scratch, Father Caylor is only able to cook for a group once a month or so. He also hosts family dinners at Christmas and Easter, preparing the main meal of turkey, lamb or ham, with relatives bringing the side dishes.

“Cooking is very relaxing,” he said. “You’re creating nourishment for family and friends. It’s very priestly if you think about it. There’s something about coming together to share a meal that is so good for human beings.”

Father Caylor said he is looking forward to the Year for Priests as an opportunity to reflect on his 34 years in the priesthood. “It will also be a source of encouragement for priests,” he added.

The most rewarding aspect of his own priestly ministry has been the opportunity to “develop pastoral relationships with parishioners at so many different levels. It’s a great privilege to connect with them at such significant moments — baptism, marriage and death. It has been a source of encouragement and support to me as I’ve seen my fellow parishioners grow in their faith. As they live out their faith, they really become witnesses to me,’ Father Caylor said.

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