ETC’s Karen Gilman had the opportunity to have a phone interview with Bishop David Toups while he was at his family home in Florida preparing for his move to Southeast Texas and his ordination to the episcopacy. The ETC would like to share that conversation with you.
ETC: I think my first question is what everyone is wondering. What was your reaction to the Apostolic Nuncio’s call? That you were going to be our next Bishop?
Bishop Toups: I was driving from home in St. Petersburg back to the seminary when I got the call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre. My first reaction was one of a sense of shock and then gratitude for the Holy Father’s confidence in me to shepherd the people of Southeast Texas. Also feeling very humbled because Our Lord calls us in our weaknesses to do things we might not have ever envisioned ourselves doing.
ETC: I guess the follow-up to that is, what led you to become a priest?
Bishop Toups: Half way through college, I was a pre-law student when I really had my adult awakening of faith and began to understand that I was called to live my faith in its fullness. It was at the time when I was called to embrace my faith as my own. That it was no longer just because I had been raised Catholic; I was now called to embrace my faith as my own. I know that I had a sense of a vocation as a child when I was an altar server. My family always had priests around, so it was a natural thought or option for us. The moment in time came when I knew He was inviting me to walk through that door. I left being a stereotypical fraternity boy to – well dropping everything. Like the disciples dropping their nets. So I always say my conversion and my vocation came hand in hand.
ETC: What about being a priest do you love the most?
Bishop Toups: I love being a spiritual father, being able through word and example to lead people to Christ – which is the call of every Christian but in a particular way of a priest. As a spiritual father being drawn into the intimacies of people’s lives – into their joys, into their sorrows, accompanying them through the beauty of the sacraments, preaching the Word of God – the power of the word proclaimed and preached is really transformative to people lives. We [priests] have this beautiful privilege of being invited into people’s hearts like very few other people in this world.
ETC: So what was your own family like? Your childhood?
Bishop Toups: I am the youngest of three children. My mother was from Florida. My father was from Louisiana. Most of my years were spent in South Louisiana until half way through high school when we moved back to my mother’s roots. I am really blessed because the faith really was transmitted in the home. We prayed at meals and for us, Sunday Mass was never an option. The rosary was certainly not foreign to us. And, you know, I had a mom and dad who loved each other in their own imperfections, as every married couple understands, but they modeled for us what a loving home was meant to be and for that I can never be grateful enough. We were involved in athletics. Education was important. But, my fondest memories are being at table and sharing meals with people I loved the most.
ETC: When you have an hour to relax what do you do?
Bishop Toups: I enjoy exercising. I enjoy walking outside. As a former Floridian, I enjoy walking on the beach. I really love the water – paddle boarding, kayaking. It’s a blessing to find time to read. There is always so much that I have to read for work, so, when I have a chance to read a good old fashion spy novel on vacation that’s always a luxury for me. When I have a few days, I like to return to my family home in St. Petersburg, to be with family and friends. In fact, I had a family over last night. We had a wonderful Mass and a meal. And, we ended up playing cards. It was delightful.
ETC: Now that we know the genre of your favorite books, what’s your favorite movie?
Bishop Toups: I remember seeing Star Wars when it first came out with my family. I have been a big fan of Star Wars ever since I was a child. My father worked for NASA as a young aerospace engineer. Ironically, he fell asleep. The rest of us loved it. My dad, who knew what space was all about and what it took to put a man on the moon, found science fiction 100 percent fictitious!
ETC: What’s your favorite kind of music? Country? Rock?
Bishop Toups: As a son of the ‘80s I definitely love ‘80s music. Which is so much fun because to all of my nephews and nieces that is all retro music now!
ETC: Do you have a favorite recording artist?
Bishop Toups: That’s a loaded question! [Laughter] Everybody’s going to get you a CD when you say that. But, I remember going to the U2 Joshua Tree concert. So, U2 has always had a special place in my repertoire.
ETC: So that brings me to a question I am sure everyone wants to know the answer to. Are you related to Wayne Toups?
Bishop Toups: You can say that [Bishop laughs hysterically]. Well, actually all of the Toups’ in the South are all related somehow. There was one widower and his son who came from the Old World into South Louisiana and that’s where the Toups clan began. With Wayne, there is no direct relations, but you could go back three centuries if you had the time and find a connection.
ETC: Finally one more serious question. If you could spend 10 minutes with Jesus, what would you ask Him?
Bishop Toups: Why do you love us so much? God’s love and mercy for us is so far beyond our understanding. So often through the Bible, we fail and He keeps taking us back. That is the beautiful mystery of God. That is the Good News!!!