Teresa Lodoen was caught off guard when she got an email from the pastor of her parish, St. Peter in Mendota, July 7. As she was finishing the wedding rehearsal of her daughter, Natalie, Father Steven Hoffman informed her that a long-time priest friend of hers, Father David McCauley, had died that day. He was 79.
“It was bittersweet, for certain,” said Lodoen, of receiving the news right at the time of her daughter’s wedding. She recalled the role Father McCauley played in her own wedding, which took place July 2, 1983. After getting to know Father McCauley through peer ministry at North Dakota State University, he later presided at her wedding to Jim at Nativity in Fargo.
She recalled how Father McCauley had recruited her to be a peer minister during her freshman year at NDSU. That led to eating dinner with him five nights a week with four other peer ministers, forming a bond that lasted all the way until his death.
“What a gift to be able to eat dinner with him every evening and have that kind of guidance and leadership and company,” she said. “He strived for excellence and he also expected that from his peer ministers.”
At that time, Father McCauley was a priest for the Diocese of Fargo. After growing up in St. Paul and attending St. Luke School and St. Thomas Academy, he attended the St. Paul Seminary and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fargo in 1963. He served there until 2001, when he was incardinated into the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he served until his retirement in 2009. Parishes where he served include St. Ambrose in Woodbury, St. Rita in Cottage Grove, Mary, Queen of Peace in Rogers and St. Pascal Baylon in St. Paul.
One of his major accomplishments, however, took place on a broader scale. He served as executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference from 1995-2001, and later as interim director while the position was vacant. Those who worked with him said his strength was being able to build relationships with legislators of both parties and advocate for Catholic positions on important issues such as farm policy and education.
“Father McCauley’s advocacy was shaped by a strong sense of solidarity, namely, that we, as a community, needed to recognize and affirm the reality that we are all brothers and sisters and are responsible for one another,” said Jason Adkins, MCC’s current executive director. “Public policy, he believed, played a vital role in fostering the well-being of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. … Father McCauley came out of retirement many, many times to serve, and showed a selfless dedication to the good of the Church and society.”
Adkins offered insight as to why Father McCauley was able to relate so well to a variety of legislators on both sides of the aisle:
“Father McCauley combined an impish charm with strong conviction and shrewd judgment regarding political dynamics. He was not afraid of a tough conversation, but it was always cloaked in a smile.”