The following story appeared in the January 13 Idaho Catholic Register.
Father Sean Caulfield at his desk in a photo from 1982. (ICR photo archives)
By Gene Fadness
Father Sean Caulfield, an Irish-born priest who also was a Trappist monk and served parishes in Idaho in his later years, died on Dec. 15, 2022.
Before retiring in 2000, Father Caulfield most recently served at the former Holy Family Parish in Payette then at the former St. Stanislaus Parish in Lewiston. He also spent a decade, from 1971 to 1981 as chaplain at St. Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood.
Father Caulfield was born to John and Margaret (Higgins) Caulfield on Jan. 30, 1925 in Carracastle, County Mayo, Ireland. He attended schools in the area and entered All Hallows Seminary in Dublin, where he studied philosophy and theology. He received a canon law degree from Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 19, 1949 in Dublin. He came immediately to the United States, serving parishes in California, including Carmel. From there, he decided to become a Trappist Monk, affiliating himself with the monastery in Hunstville, Utah. He was in Huntsville from 1953-71 when he became the chaplain at St. Gertrude’s. Following that, he received parish assignments – though remaining affiliated with the Trappists – first at Mary Immaculate Parish in St. Anthony (1982-84), then at Holy Family in Payette (1984-93) and St. Stanislaus in Lewiston (1993-2000).
Cheryl St. Marie recalls meeting Father Sean Caulfield at her son’s ordination in 1993. (Father Mike St. Marie is now pastor at All Saints in Lewis-ton and presided at Father Caulfield’s funeral on Jan. 12). “My husband and I were coming out of the Cathedral and he tapped us on the shoulder, introduced himself, and said he was coming to Lewiston.”
That began a friendship that spanned three decades as she and a few others continued to visit him at his home and later at his care center.
“He was more than my pastor. I considered him a friend. He and I could discuss anything. Like I told him, ‘Who am I going to spar with now?’ ”
His ministry at St. Stanislaus was effective in many ways, she said, not only based on the relationships he established with a community that had previously been served by Jesuits, but also with his fundraising ability. In a short period of time, he persuaded parishioners and friends of the former downtown Lewiston parish to raise enough money to build a social hall. “He was the one who organized it and raised the necessary money within about six months,” she said. “He was always so appreciative of his parishioners.”
Even after retiring in 2000, Father Caulfield continued to make hospital calls, give Last Rites, and be available for counseling. During his retirement, he spent time praying, reading and writing extensively. According to his obituary, he gave retreats throughout the country and was a visiting professor at Lewis-Clark State College.
Josh Zborowski, now of Boise, remembers the influence Father Caulfield had on him on a boy and later as a married man.
Zborowski and his older brother were altar servers at Holy Family Parish in Payette Idaho in the early 1990s. “He was a very spiritual holy man, dedicated to his craft,” Zborowksi said. “I looked at him as a person I could trust. He was always there to listen, even when it was silly-kid stuff.”
Christmas was a favorite time of year for the priest, Zborowski recalls. “He would make it a point that everything was perfect, from the way the red and white poinsettias were facing in front of the altar to the proper location of the knot on our robes. It had to match his. … Shoes had to be perfectly shined, robe just off the heal. Use the correct length of rope, so it does not dangle too much. The neck cross had to rest perfectly in the middle of our chest, and don’t you dare play with it during Mass,” he said. “Tradition was an upmost importance. His consistent commitment to the Church and the parish gave everyone including myself a sense of belonging.”
Later, when Zborowski and his future wife decided to marry, they asked Father Caulfield to officiate. “When I confronted him with this request, he made sure I understood what it takes to be married in the Church. Both my fiancé and I were required to have a few sessions with him to engage in pre-marital classes. This helped me to understand myself and my part in the marriage. As life went on, I found myself referring to what I learned in those sessions.”
“He was an integral part of my life and everyone he touched. His love abounds. His faith is unparalleled. He will be remembered for eternity for his generosity and love for everyone and everything,” Zborowski said.
According to the family obituary, “Sean’s sense of humor, his deep spirituality and theology will be remembered and missed by many. People still remember his homilies and how they were touched by them.”
Father Caulfield was preceded in death by his parents, sister Maureen Caulfield, brother and sister-in-law Michael and Attracta Caulfield, brother Brendon Caulfield and brother-in-law Vincent Coleman. He is survived by his sister, Chris Coleman and many nieces and nephews in Ireland; and by his sister-in-law Margaret Caulfield and her children.
Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated at All Saints Catholic Church on Jan. 12, with burial at Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston. Memorials can be made to the Monastery of St. Gertrude; to the Priest’s Retirement Fund for the Diocese of Boise; to St. Joe’s Family Hospice Memorial Fund (care of Sister Pat Rosholt, 415 Sixth St., Lewiston, ID) or to a charity of your choice.
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