So how does a self-described “stereotypical frat boy” go from that college beginning to become the Bishop of a small Catholic diocese in Southeast Texas?
Probably the best place to find that answer is to talk to the people who knew him “way back when.” Way back before he was a “fraternity man.” Way back before he was the gregarious high school freshman who never met a stranger.
Way back to the time when Bishop David L. Toups was just Vicki’s and Mike’s little brother.
If you want to know how little David was to become your Excellency, you talk to the guy who shared a room with him and the sister who babysat him.
Neither older brother Mike Toups or big sister Vicki Toups Sheaffer were shocked when pre-law David announced he was taking a new career path – this time one that went through a seminary.
It made total sense to Vicki and Mike since all three of the Toups siblings came from a family rooted in prayer. Vicki said she remembers well the parents who were frequently coordinating Church services with sports for a trio of kids who were very active in athletics. Sunday Mass was never an option and the rosary was a familiar prayer in the Toups household.
Though sister and brother were not shocked by the announcement of a calling, Mike did say the timing, coming in the middle of college years, was a little unexpected.
But, Vicki admits her husband Russell was surprised and perhaps a little disappointed.
The young couple had just had their first baby. “And, Russell was living life vicariously through David,” Vicki said.
Russell’s reaction? “What? You’re not going to call us and tell us about the latest frat party!”
Even though there was a five-year difference in age, Mike and David shared more than just a room growing up. “We played basketball and baseball together. I sometimes coached him. We were altar boys together. He was a good little brother.”
And about that room? “Who was the messy one?” we asked Mike.
“David was the neatnik. Clothes laid out in the morning. He was a very sharp dresser. Always, color-coordinated.”
Color coordination may have even affected the family cat.
“We were painting a fence when this rat-looking creature appeared,” Mike remembered.
The rat turned out to be an abandoned kitten. A kitten that David ran after with his paintbrush accidently coordinating the soon to be family pet with the family fence.
Vicki agrees with her brother Mike that though always loving a good time, young David was never a hellion. “Because I was the oldest, I was often his babysitter. It wasn’t hard, because David was very responsible.”
Both siblings agree that young David most likely inherited his socially extroverted attitude from their father, Leon. The older Toups was also young David’s connection to fraternity life. Father, grandfather and Michael all belonged to that same fraternity.
Both siblings say that Bishop Toups is only the latest member of the immediate family to find his way to Texas. Several of the clan have attended college in the Lone Star state and niece Grace Toups is currently living in Austin.
Mike believes his brother’s outgoing attitude has helped him relate easily to his six nieces and nephews as well as young adults in general. “He’s been a great example to our kids. He’s lived life so he can appreciate the phases they went through as teenagers and now as adults.”
Mike believes that Bishop Toups’ understanding of young adults benefited his brother greatly in his recent role as rector at St. Vincent DePaul Seminary.
Vicki echoes Mike’s thoughts about their brother’s relationship with his nieces and nephews and now their spouses. She said they know they can come to Bishop Toups in confidence knowing he will listen to their spiritual questions and provide a moral compass for them.
“It’s a gift for them to understand that it’s no judgment but there is a moral compass. And that compass has always been the guiding light of who we are as Catholic Christians, the foundation on which we have always been able to make our critical decisions based on,” Vicki said.
“The diocese is getting a good guy who believes in his mission and is excited to become a part of Southeast Texas.” Having gone to college in Texas, Mike thinks “its gonna be a great fit.”
So how does one go from being gregarious, fun-loving, young David to being the Bishop of Beaumont?
Vicki says joy is the answer, the joy of the Gospel. “He radiates the joy and love of Christ.”
She calls him “a joy-boy.”
Certainly Christ’s “joy boy.”