Rev. Monsignor Ben Kasteel was born in the Netherlands, the country of the tulips, windmills and wooden shoes. He was born in a farming family of twelve children on March 8, 1937.
He remembers the day that World War II began in 1940. As a child he experienced bombardment, black bread, poverty of refugees, and the great day of liberation on Holy Saturday in 1945. He attended Catholic elementary school. In 1950 Monsignor Ben entered the minor seminary of the Marist Fathers in Hulst, Holland. He was professed a Marist on September 12, 1958. He entered the major seminary of the Marist priests in Lievelde. He was ordained a priest on February 22, 1964, in a class of seven. He taught one year in the minor seminary.
In June 1965 he left Holland for the Samoa missions in the South Pacific Islands. He worked seven years in Western Somoa with a two-year break. He learned the Polynesian language and culture. He worked on the Island of Upolu in the places of Leauvaa and Leulumoega with many mission stations.
For the purpose of international exchange among the Marists, Ben came to the United States, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1971 at St. Pius X parish, where he received the first experience of the American way of life and became familiar with team ministry. It was in Cleveland that he first participated in a new parish renewal program,
Christ Renews His Parish
. In 1976 he became dean and consultant to Bishop Hickey and at the same time he was involved in personnel development for the Marist Priests in pastoral ministry.
In June 1979 he was appointed pastor at St. Vincent the Paul Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, during the time of the closing of the coal mines and steel mills. He enjoyed the beautiful hills of West Virginia, especially in spring and fall. At that time he served as dean of the Wheeling Deanery and on the Council of the Washington Province of the Marists. The parish had a school and a mission church. Monsignor Ben built a new wing on the school and renovated the two churches. He introduced Christ Renews His Parish for men, women and for couples.
In 1988 he received a sabbatical year and studied Marist Spirituality in Rome and in Santa Barbara, California, at the Institute of Theology and Spirituality. On the occasion of his 25th Anniversary of Priesthood he visited the South Pacific Islands, where he had worked, and where some of his classmates were still ministering.
His next ministry was in Texas among the Hispanics. In June 1989, after three weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico, to familiarize himself with the Spanish language, he was appointed, for a few days, in Floydada, Matador and Paducah, but finally in Plainview with Monsignor Eugene Driscoll at Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
After one year, the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe was reestablished and the downtown bank building was purchased as a new church. Monsignor Ben was involved in the renovation of that building. He lived in the safe of the bank for about five years. He was the “safest priest in Texas." He speaks with deep emotions about the day that the community moved from the Old Guadalupe to the new Church, dedicated by Bishop Michael Sheehan. He introduced
Christ Renews His Parish
in Spanish at Guadalupe. After paying off the building in five years with three Jamaicas a year, the insurance building was bought as the parish hall, located on the same property and later on the rectory was purchased on Broadway. When he arrived in Plainview he became Dean of the Plainview Deanery and later President of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Lubbock.
On June 1, 1994, Bishop Plácido Rodríguez became the second bishop of the Lubbock Diocese. He appointed Monsignor Ben as Vicar General of the Diocese of Lubbock. That position made him ex officio member of the Presbyteral Council, Personnel Board, Finance Council, Building Committee and the Bishop’s Pastoral Team. On May 22, 1997, he was incardinated into the Diocese of Lubbock.
In June 1998 he was asked to become rector at Christ the King Cathedral. It was very painful for him to leave Guadalupe because he loved the ministry among Mexicans, the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the close cooperation that he received from that community. At Christ the King he continued the renovation of the Cathedral and the grounds and the updating of the school facilities. Monsignor Ben was particularly concerned about spiritual renewal and lay involvement so again he started
Christ Renews His Parish
, Perpetual Adoration, spirituality for men and women, the prayer line and an annual stewardship fair. He was extremely blessed with the fine staff around him in the parish and the school. He encouraged all the parish commissions to take seriously their responsibility for ministry.
Other accomplishments during his tenure as Rector of Christ the King Cathedral were re-establishing Christ the King High School, a major expansion of parish facilities including the multi-purpose Family Activity Center, expansion of the cathedral school, and the addition of an Early Childhood Development Center. He also led a renewal of the sacramental programs and Continuing Catholic Education, full-time youth ministry, establishing a Development Council and Development Office, and creating a new website.
**On January 16, 2004, Monsignor Ben was bestowed the Prelate of Honor of His Holiness John Paul II. The title Prelate of Honor is conferred on the recipient for his lifetime. It entitles the recipient to the style of “Reverend Monsignor." He received the letter of his nomination from the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Sedano.The title Prelate of Honor is usually conferred on outstanding members of the local clergy. From the French monseigneur, meaning “My Lord,” this title of honor is accorded to all archbishops and bishops (although in the United States it is not used by these prelates); by Prelates of Honor and by Chaplains of His Holiness. Reverend Monsignor Bernardus Kasteel.**