Fr. Dave Kasperek dies; helped establish ‘The Green Bay Plan’

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | July 3, 2014

FLINTVILLE — Two baskets sat on a table in the gathering space at Ss. Edward and Isidore Church. One contained fresh vegetables. The other was filled with seeds. A note attached to the table read, “Take a seed for planting. Keep Fr. Dave’s love alive.”

Fr. Dave Kasperek, right, who served as pastor at Ss. Edward and Isidore from 1982 to 2012, died June 19 at age 76.  He is pictured with Fr. Paul DeMuth last summer following their jubilee Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Green Bay. (File photo by Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Fr. Dave Kasperek, right, who served as pastor at Ss. Edward and Isidore from 1982 to 2012, died June 19 at age 76. He is pictured with Fr. Paul DeMuth last summer following their jubilee Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Green Bay. (File photo by Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Fr. Dave Kasperek, who served as pastor at Ss. Edward and Isidore from 1982 to 2012, died June 19 at age 76. The baskets were among displays in his honor at a June 22 visitation and prayer service, and the funeral Mass the following day.

Fr. Kasperek, an accomplished gardener, also planted seeds of faith, said Sheila DeLuca, a close friend who offered the welcome and shared words of remembrance at the liturgy.

“He not only planted a garden of vegetables, but a garden of love, and watched it grow,” she said.

DeLuca, pastoral associate at Resurrection Parish, Allouez, met Fr. Kasperek when he served as director of religious education for the diocese. She described him as a “leader and hard worker” and added, “He knew what he wanted.”

Fr. Kasperek, an Appleton native, decided at an early age that he wanted to become a priest. He studied at Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi on May 25, 1963, at the Josephinum. His first assignment was as an assistant pastor at St. Rose Parish, Clintonville. While serving as an assistant pastor at St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay, his second assignment, he also taught at St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay.

In 1968, Fr. Kasperek attended Fordham University in New York to earn a degree in religious education. Fifteen years in the diocesan Department of Education would follow. Fr. Kasperek, Msgr. Mark Schommer, Dick Reichert and staff formulated “The Green Bay Plan,” a comprehensive faith approach for families, parishes and the diocese, which gained national acclaim. In 1975, while continuing as director of religious education, he became co-pastor with Fr. Paul Demuth at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Green Bay.

DeLuca accompanied Fr. Kasperek during his initial visit to Ss. Edward and Isidore. The parish had 420 families at the time. She recalls him saying, “You don’t stay at a place for more than six years.”

Fr. Kasperek, who led the building of a new church in Flintville in 1996, never wanted to leave for another assignment. During an interview with The Compass for his 50-year jubilee, he said, “I could have stayed there 60 years. I never gave the same homily. The parish was always vibrant.”

During his years as pastor, Ss. Edward and Isidore grew to 2,000 families. The parish, under his leadership, regularly supported causes worldwide, including building a school in India. Fr. Savio Samala of India, a concelebrant at the funeral Mass, described Fr. Kasperek as “a missionary at heart.”

Fr. Demuth served as the homilist at the funeral Mass. He said that gardening, fishing and hunting were more than pastimes for Fr. Kasperek, but also a means “so he could feed those around him.”

Fr. Kasperek enjoyed working side-by-side with the people of the parish. He canned vegetables for the parish picnic and regularly gave food to others, including fish. Fr. Demuth still has perch in his freezer from his best friend.

“He would always say, ‘If you freeze them in water, they will be fresh whenever you pull them out,’” said Fr. Demuth with a laugh.

Feeding people in faith was evident in the days when Fr. Kasperek would travel to Lakewood to celebrate 10 Masses on a weekend at the church and the surrounding chapels, explained Fr. Demuth. “The people came for nourishment and he fed them with Christ,” he said.

Fr. Kasperek didn’t hesitate to challenge anyone, added Fr. Demuth, especially if he felt that the person was accepting mediocrity.

“Fr. Dave spoke what he believed,” he said.

Fr. Demuth also spoke about Fr. Kasperek’s compassion for people.

“He would think nothing of spending hours with a couple helping them save their marriage.”

Fr. Kasperek was diagnosed with cancer at age 60. His condition worsened in the summer of 2012. He spent a considerable amount of time the past two years connecting with friends through letters and phone conversations, reading and praying.

“I pray for people in active ministry and pray for all people,” said Fr. Kasperek last summer. “… I have been very fortunate. The Spirit is willing if you let the Spirit work in and through you.”

Fr. Demuth closed his homily by leading the singing of “This Little Light of Mine,” Fr. Kasperek’s favorite song to share with the children of the parish.

He is survived by his closest friends, Sheila DeLuca, Dick and Sara Reichert, and Fr. Paul Demuth; his sisters-in-law, Dee (Jim) Kasperek, Appleton, and Nay (Ken) Kasperek, Neenah; nieces and nephews.

Fr. Kasperek was preceded in death by his parents, Stan and Marge (Champeau) Kasperek; his brothers, Kenneth and James; sister-in-law, Billie Brown Kasperek; and nephew, Louie Van Toll.

June Ingold, former longtime pastoral associate at Ss. Edward and Isidore Parish, and DeLuca led an evening prayer service on June 22. The funeral Mass was celebrated June 23 with Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau as celebrant. Concelebrants were Bishop Emeritus Robert Banks, Frs. Demuth, Charles Hoffman, Michael Ingold, Ralph Merkatoris, Savio Samala, Robert Vandenberg and Msgr. Mark Schommer. Burial followed in St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery, Lakewood.

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