My name is Fr. Paul Lesupati, Parochial Vicar of Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Springfield in Illinois. I am a native from Kenya. My parents are Jacob Lesupati and Cecilia Lesupati. We are six children in my family four girls and two boys, I am the baby in the family. My Vocation journey began when I was an altar server. It had been my heart’s desire to become a priest, but I never knew where God was calling me to go and serve. After completing high school, I went to visit my sister in Nairobi and one Sunday I attended mass there at Consolata Church. While there, I met a Franciscan Priest and I asked him about their procedure for joining their congregation. After this, I discerned with them for a couple years. After a period of time. I saw that God was not calling me to religious life.
After completing my university studies in 2015, I went to work with Jesuit Refugees Services which is a Catholic Organization run by the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Fathers). I enjoyed working with the refugees and those who had been displaced from their countries because of war, by serving them as a social worker. I was responsible for doing supervision, assessing different cases, and working with different agencies. I focused on refugees who needed someone to listen and understand their issues. The mission of Jesuit Refugees Services is To Serve, To Accompany and To Advocate. As a social worker, I took the vulnerable client or beneficiaries to the service provider. I was working under the counseling department which covers individual counseling, family therapy, group counseling and a peer group for drug and substance abuse. Under the counseling department, I offered different trainings for conditions such as PSTD, loss and grief, and drugs and substance abuse.
During this time, I felt a strong desire to serve God more closely and discern my vocation. Multiple priests strongly influenced me in my prayer life. The first was the elderly priest who I met in my life among the Franciscans. Additionally, the Diocesan priests (such as my own parish priest) played an important role in my vocational journey. The final push came from Fr. Jeff Grant from the Springfield Diocese in Illinois whom I meant at Kakuma Refugee. His life of prayer and emphasis on pastoral care influenced me to be more prayerful and to discern joining the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
My journey to the priesthood from Africa to the United States began in 2016 when, in Kenya, I met the pastor for Blessed Sacrament Parish, Rev. Jeff Grant. He came to Kenya for his sabbatical. He came down to Kenya, and he ended up being at the refugee camp, which is run by Jesuit Refugee Service. During that time, I was also there. I was working as a social worker. I was asked by my project director to help Fr. Jeff Grant because he was new. He needed somebody who could take him around the camp and introduce him to different areas and groups. I said, ‘Well, I am ready to help Father’. My work as a social worker was to visit different groups collecting data, doing assessments, familiarizing myself with their problems, and determining means of helping them. I was working under the counseling department, and they were dealing with trauma and stress disorder.
I was assigned to an area where there were new arrivals, fresh from fleeing from their countries. I took Fr. Jeff Grant, and we went from tent to tent, asking how the refugees were doing, discovering their needs, and finding ways to assist them. I do remember Father Jeff Grant just looked at me. He asked me one question: ‘Paul, have you been a priest before?’ I responded, ‘No, Father’, then Father told me that the way I was talking, listening, and handling the refugees with compassion was more than what could be expected of a social worker.
After this conversation, I shared my experience with Fr. Jeff Grant that day. He encouraged me to tell him about my vocation journey and my desire for discerning priesthood. I was working with Father Jeff Grant as a pastoral coordinator. I started developing an interest and sharing with him about my desire to become a priest, which was already there. Before speaking with Fr. Jeff, I already felt called to be a diocesan priest. Still, I did not know which Diocese to join. It was after talking with Father Grant that I came to know about the Springfield Diocese in Illinois. I asked him about the requirements and procedures for joining this diocese. He gave me the contacts of the Vocation Director, Fr. Brian Alford. I kept in touch with him through email until he requested that I visit the Diocese in 2017 and 2018.
I was accepted as a seminarian for the Springfield Diocese in Illinois by Most Reverend Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. On August 26, 2018, I was enrolled as a seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and studied at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, IN. My home parish is Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Springfield where I spent my summer in 2019 working with Fr. Jeff Grant and Fr. Ron Lorilla, and in the summer of 2020, I worked with Fr. Dean Probst at St. Thomas and St. Marie Parish in Newton IL.
I was ordained transitional Deacon by Most Reverent Bishop Thomas Paprocki on April 9, 20221. I worked as transitional Deacon for my summer internship at Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon under the mentorship of Rev. Fr. John Titus. I graduated in saint Meinrad School of Theology with master’s in divinity and I was Ordained priest for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois by Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki on May 28, 2022, and I was appointed Parochial Vicar of Cathedral of Immaculate Conception by Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki. I am looking forward journeying together with you to the path of faith as your Parochial Vicar. Please pray for me and all the priest as we work in the vineyard of the Lord.