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Fr. O’Toole, Msgr. Costello recognized as ‘Great Preachers’ who bring the Word to life

Fr. O'Toole
Preaching has been at the heart of the Dominican charism from the get-go. St. Dominic founded Ordo Praedicatorum (meaning Order of Preachers in Latin) in 1216 specifically to preach the Gospel.

So, Dominicans — aka, the Order the Preachers — know a thing or two about outstanding preaching. For the past 23 years, the Dominican-sponsored Aquinas Institute of Theology has been recognizing it in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Illinois dioceses of Belleville and of Springfield.

This year, Father Matthew O’Toole and Msgr. Jack Costello join 24 clergy and one woman religious as Great Preacher Award recipients. They will be honored Thursday, Oct. 18, at The Cedars banquet hall at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral south of Downtown.

“It’s very flattering,” said Father O’Toole, the pastor since 2011 at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in St. Louis. The Great Preacher Award “reminds the Church how important preaching is. As priests we’re charged with ministering from the pulpit, and we take this seriously.”

Father O’Toole and Msgr. Costello take preaching so seriously that they prepare for it all week.

“Monday morning, I start by reading the Scriptures for the next Sunday,” said Father O’Toole. He then researches multiple sources and draws from his background teaching history at Christian Brothers College High School.

Msgr. Costello
“That was a way of influencing my preaching,” he said. ” Storytelling always has been very important to me; I see the value of learning from stories.”

He also draws from culture and current events.

“It’s important to me to resonate with people’s experience,” said Father O’Toole, who was ordained in 1995. “If it doesn’t resonate with people’s lived experiences then the Word isn’t alive. A preacher has to be alert to what’s going on in people’s lives; how does the Word and our faith speak to this? You have to be relevant.”

Msgr. Costello, the pastor for the past 13 years at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood, also brings relevance to the table as part of the overall approach in creating the “Sunday experience,” as described in the Amazing Parish (conferences and parish support) program. Through hospitality, the music and the homily, a positive Sunday experience attracts people to church week after week. He brings passion, organization, understanding and relevance to his preaching, which denotes the acronym POUR as described by Canadian priest Father James Mallon in the book “Divine Renovation.”

‘The thing that stands out are that his homilies are both passionate and relevant,” said Kevin Stillman, business manager at St. Peter. “He loves being a priest, truly and dearly loves St. Peter’s, and that comes across in his homilies.”

Like Father O’Toole, Msgr. Costello, who was ordained in 1972, starts working on the homily early in the week, then formulates his thoughts with current events and applies them to the Gospel. Like Father O’Toole, he appeals to adults and children, leaving the ambo to interact with students at all-school Masses.

Both Father O’Toole and Msgr. Costello stood out among nominees this year.

“A couple of things make a great preacher,” said Father Sean Martin, OP, the president of Aquinas Institute. “No. 1, the preacher is clearly faithful to the Gospel, but it is not so much just an explanation of the Gospel. A great preacher helps people understand their lives in the light of the Gospel.”

Father Martin dispatches alumni, faculty and staff to see and hear the priests who have been nominated. They return buzzing about the Sunday experience.

“Very clearly, they’ve given them food for thought that nourishes them the entire week long,” he said. “That is by definition the essence of what a preacher is supposed to do.”


2018 Great Preachers | At a glance

Msgr. John M. Costello

Birthplace: St. Louis (Feb. 24, 1946)

Education: St. Louis Prep South, Cardinal Glennon College, Kenrick Seminary

Ordination: May 20, 1972, by Cardinal John J. Carberry

Assignments: Associate pastor, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, Crestwood, 1972-77

Associate pastor, St. Lucy Parish, Jennings, 1977-80

Associate pastor, St. Blaise Parish, Maryland Heights, 1980-84

Director, Permanent Diaconate Office, 1984-88

Part-time associate pastor, St. Peter, Kirkwood, 1984-1988

Pastor, Holy Cross Parish, St. Louis, 1988-93

Associate pastor, Holy Family Parish, St. Louis, 1993-94

Pastor, St. Francis Borgia Parish, Washington, 1994-2005

Pastor, St. Peter Parish, Kirkwood, 2005-present

About Msgr. Costello: Msgr. Costello was named Chaplain to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with the title of monsignor, on Sept. 8, 2008.


Father Matthew L. O’Toole

Birthplace: St. Louis (Dec. 7, 1967)

Education: St. Louis Prep South, Cardinal Glennon College, Saint Louis University, Kenrick School of Theology, The Catholic University of America

Ordination: May 27, 1995, by Archbishop Justin Rigali

Assignments: Associate pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Manchester, 1995-96

Associate pastor, St. Raphael the Archangel, 1996-2001

Teacher and chaplain, Christian Brothers College High School, St. Louis and Creve Coeur, 2001-2011

Part-time associate pastor, Our Lady of Lourdes, University City, 2001-08

In residence, Ascension Parish, Chesterfield, 2008-11

Pastor, St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, south St. Louis, 2011-present

About Father O’Toole: Father O’Toole taught history for 10 years at CBC.


>> Aquinas Institute of Theology
2018 Great Preacher Award Dinner

Who • Father Matthew O’Toole, St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in south St. Louis; and Msgr. John Costello, St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood

When • 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18

Where • The Cedars Banquet Hall, 939 Lebanon Drive, St. Louis 63104

Register/information • contact Diane Henderson at (314) 256-8856 or henderson@ai.edu


>> Previous Great Preachers

2017 • Father Ed Stanger, Father Jeffrey H. Goeckner

2016 • Msgr. William J. Hitpas, Father John Rogers Vien

2015 • Bishop Robert E. Barron

2014 • Bishop Robert J. Shaheen

2013 • Msgr. Michael E. Turek

2012 • Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD

2011 • Deacon Dennis Chitwood

2010 • Cardinal Francis George, OMI

2009 • Msgr. Vincent R. Bommarito

2008 • Msgr. Patrick Hambrough

2007 • Father James A. Krings

2006 • Father Dale Wunderlich

2005 • Msgr. William A. Drennan

2004 • Father Joe Kempf

2003 • Father Donald Wester

2002 • Bishop Wilton D. Gregory

2001 • Sister Joan Delaplane, OP

2000 • Father Gary Braun

1999 • Bishop Paul A. Zipfel

1998 • Father John F. Kavanaugh, SJ

1997 • Msgr. James Telthorst

1996 • Cardinal Joseph Bernadin

1995 • Father James Cormack, CM

Source: www.ai.edu/Great-Preacher

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