Fr. Charles Cummins recognized for years of contributions to Utah Catholic education
Friday, Mar. 17, 2017
IC photo/Marie Mischel
Father Charles Cummins, chaplain of the Weber State Newman Center, is presented with the Christ the Teacher Award by Bishop Oscar A. Solis.
SALT LAKE CITY — In the 44 years that he has been associated with Utah Catholic Schools, Father Charles Cummins has driven a bus, coached track and field, and served as chaplain. Those many years of faithful service and commitment to the schools and the Diocese of Salt Lake City were recognized March 10 as he was presented with the Christ the Teacher Award after the Mass for Professional Educator Day at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
“Fr. Cummins always makes time to celebrate Mass for our students,” said St. Joseph Elementary School Principal Nancy Essary in the nomination form that accompanied the award. “He celebrates a very special First Holy Communion Mass for our second-graders, he’s a fantastic golfer, and he is a huge supporter of both of our St. Joseph schools.”
As chaplain at Weber State University, Fr. Cummins is involved with the students “and is available to them whenever and wherever he is needed,” said Mark Long, Utah Catholic Schools superintendent, during his remarks before the award was presented.
After college and a four-year hitch in the U.S. Marine Corps, Fr. Cummins began his ministry as a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where he was assigned to a parish near the 20th Century Fox studios, Long said, and one day he asked a friend who was the MGM casting director why he was never cast when a Catholic priest was needed as an extra. The friend replied, “‘Sorry, Father. You don’t look like a Catholic priest,’” Long said. “He is also, I am told, the only priest we know who has been a model in a J.Crew catalog.”
Five years after his priestly ordination, Fr. Cummins came to the Salt Lake diocese, where he served as the track and field coach for Saint Joseph Catholic High School, helping the students win three state championships and driving the bus to sporting events, Long said. “He was with the students and shared in their jubilation when they won; however, perhaps more importantly, he always had a consoling word and provided support and encouragement during those long drives home after a difficult defeat.”
To benefit the wider community, Fr. Cummins joined with the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ogden to organize the annual Turkey Trot walk/run to help provide food for the hungry.
“Like Christ the Teacher, Fr. Cummins models love for students, their parents and teachers while also providing support for Catholic education in Ogden, Utah,” Long said before Bishop Oscar A. Solis presented the award.
After accepting the plaque, Fr. Cummins said he wanted to explain about asking to be in a movie. When he was assigned to St. Henry Parish in Los Angeles, the other priest was cast as an extra three times, so once Fr. Cummins spoke to the MGM casting director, who was attending Mass that day. “I said, ‘Al, I’ve got parents; they’d like to see me in a movie.’ And he said, ‘You don’t look like a priest. When I need a gunfighter, I’ll get you,’” Fr. Cummins said, as the gathered teachers and administrators laughed. “I’m still waiting for his call,” he added.
On a more serious note, he said, “I think I was an OK teacher. I think I was an adequate coach. I thought I was a good bus driver. I always got them home safely. … But more important for all of us is that we were on the right path in this life.”
Movie stars and athletes often make millions of dollars, but teachers and administrators “don’t make quite that much money, but you get much more,” Fr. Cummins said. “You’re guiding young people on a path through this thing called life. Even more so, you’re giving them a path toward eternity.”