Monsignor Michael F. Szupper, longtime chaplain at the University of Delaware and pastor of the St. Thomas More Oratory, died Dec. 18. He was 86 and celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priesthood earlier this year.
Msgr. Szupper, a native of Northampton, Pa., studied for the priesthood at Pontifical Josephinium High School and Pontifical College Josephinium in Worthington, Ohio.
He served as an associate pastor at St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, Md., Immaculate Conception in Elkton and St. John’s/Holy Angels, Newark, but found his calling in 1964, when he became the campus minister at the University of Delaware. He celebrated Mass at various locations on campus until he founded and helped build the St. Thomas More Oratory in 1975. He became its pastor and worked with students and the Catholic community on and around the campus for 42 years until his retirement in 2006.
He told The Dialog upon his retirement that he viewed campus ministry as a place where “students leaving the comfort of home, the support of family, the security of a familiar neighborhood are welcomed to a home away from home, to a home not of walls and doors, but a home of challenge and the celebration of discovery.”
He was named a monsignor in 2005 and told UDaily, a university publication that the honor was more a recognition of his vocation than of himself.
“The bishop’s nominating me to become a Chaplain of His Holiness is a statement and affirmation on his part of the importance of campus ministries,” he said.
In the same article, Msgr. Szupper recalled being fitted for a new cassock with purple piping, buttons and sash.
“I asked the tailor if it could be blue for Delaware, but he was not amused,” said the priest, who rarely missed a Blue Hens home football game.
In 2003, Msgr. Szupper received the university’s highest honor, the Medal of Distinction. He received the award at the opening convocation for new students at the Bob Carpenter Center. He told The Dialog he chose the convocation to receive the award to let students know that the university “is concerned with their total growth, personally, intellectually and physically. This is not just Mike Szupper receiving this award. It’s telling the students that no matter what their religion, the university recognizes the importance of that part of their life.”
In addition to the University of Delaware, Msgr. Szupper headed the diocese’s campus ministry for colleges in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore from 1968 until his retirement.
During his priesthood he served on the diocesan board of education, the Pastoral Planning Commission for the 1990s, and the boards of the Catholic Diocese Foundation and the Catholic Press of Wilmington Inc. He was also a member of the Clergy Personnel Committee and dean of the Iron Hill Deanery.
The monsignor is survived by two brothers, Anthony and William, and a sister, Theresa, and extended family.
A viewing will be held Dec. 29 from 6-8 p.m. and Dec. 30 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at St. Thomas More Oratory, 45 Lovett Ave., Newark. Bishop Malooly will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial at the oratory on Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. Burial will be at Our Lady of Hungary Cemetery at Msgr. Szupper’s home parish.
Donations in his name can be made to St. Thomas More Oratory, 45 Lovett Ave., Newark, DE 19711, or Queenship of Mary, 1324 Newport Ave., Northampton, PA 18067.