Rev. Michael Casteel, who recently retired after 38 years of service to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, is a 2022 recipient of Notre Dame Regional High School’s (NDHS) prestigious Annunciation Award.
The honor was bestowed by the NDHS Education Fund Foundation on October 14 at the Acts of the Apostles Dinner at the Jackson Civic Center.
The award is presented annually to individuals who have devoted immeasurable time, talent or treasure to sustain Catholic secondary education in the community and whose presence, by word and deed, has enriched the lives of the students of Notre Dame and served as an example for all.
Father Casteel said he was surprised by the honor.
“I think people who receive this award do extraordinary things,” he said, recalling that the late Monsignor Richard Rolwing and many others of significance have been recipients. “I’m just a little old priest. I feel uncomfortable about it,” he said. “But I’m humbled by it.”
His contributions to Notre Dame have been many. Father Casteel has been a mainstay at Notre Dame, serving as the school’s lead chaplain for the past decade.
“During Father Michael’s time at Notre Dame, he was not only a great resource for our students, but for our faculty & staff,” said Alex Jackson, Notre Dame development director. “His kind, quiet demeanor made him so approachable for everyone at Notre Dame. You could tell he always worked hard to connect his life stories to the Gospel so students could better understand God’s word.”
During his years at Notre Dame, Casteel accompanied Notre Dame students on the junior Emmaus and the senior Kairos retreats; heard confessions during Advent and Lent; spoke in religion classes on various topics such as the conflicts between creationism and evolution; attended athletic, musical, theatrical and Activity Week events; and celebrated Holy Day Masses.
“I would work really hard on my homilies,” he said. “I hope they appreciated them.”
But above all, Casteel said, “I shared the journey of faith with the students, faculty and staff during difficult and good moments. I walked with them and guided them in their faith and gave them direction. I think that in all things, when priests are with people, they are invited into moments of joy and sadness.”
So, he added, “We would walk together. I’d respond in whatever way was necessary.”
Being present, listening, responding and sharing his love of the Lord were his most important contributions.
“I hope they experienced the Lord with me and that I challenged them to live their faith in a challenging culture and that they grew to appreciate the Church,” he said. “I hope they found me really human. I hope they saw the Lord in me as I did in them. I hope we just loved each other.”
In 2012, the Rev. James Johnston, former bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, assigned Father Casteel to Notre Dame. Father Casteel recalled visiting with Bishop Johnston in June 2016 at the installation of the Bishop Edward Rice who succeeded Bishop Johnston as the diocese’s new bishop. Bishop Johnston, now bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, told Father Casteel that assigning him to Notre Dame “was the best assignment he’d made.”
“It was a great blessing in my life,” Casteel said. “I am grateful to Bishop Johnston and Brother David (Migliorino, former Notre Dame principal). I appreciated their calling.”
Father Casteel and Father John Harth, who retired in 2020 after 33 years of service to the Diocese, together served as Notre Dame chaplains from 2013 to 2020. Having two older priests who provided continuity to the school for so many years was “a wise move,” Casteel said.
Father Casteel, a Greeley, Colorado, native, is the son of Robert and the late Katherine Casteel, both of whom were teachers and together raised four sons. Father Casteel attended seminary at The Pontifical College Josephinum, where he completed his studies with a Master of Divinity.
He was ordained on June 8, 1984, at Immaculate Conception Parish in Springfield, Missouri, as a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. In his first assignment, he served as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in New Madrid, Missouri. He later served as associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield, St. Canera in Neosho, Nativity of Our Lord in Noel and St. Mary in Seneca. His first assignment as a pastor was at St. John Church in Leopold, Missouri, beginning in August 1989. He later served as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle in Joplin, Holy Trinity in Marshfield, and St. Denis in Benton and St. Lawrence in New Hamburg, before concluding his ministry as pastor at St. Augustine in Kelso and St. Joseph in Scott City, where he retired July 1.
Beginning in 1996, Father Casteel also provided Catholic family counseling in Springfield after he returned to school and earned a counseling degree from Missouri State University. Father Casteel also served in weekend ministry at Holy Trinity at Marshfield and as Moderator for Region 7, chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America, Ozark Council 308 and the Knights of Columbus 6420.
Since his retirement, Casteel has returned to his stomping grounds to visit family in Colorado and Wyoming, and he spent time in Springfield, Missouri, catching up with his brothers and father.
He is now enjoying retirement in the Sunshine State, where he resides in Fort Myers, Florida.
“I’m loving it,” he said.