Twenty-six years ago a woman in Nebraska made an appointment to have an abortion. She was in college and believed she couldn’t afford to take care of her baby. However, she couldn’t go through with it so she made an appointment with another doctor– an OB-GYN. After her appointment, she decided to place her baby for adoption. She wanted to give her baby the very best chance at life.
Around the same time, Randy and Sherry Kaup, were struggling with infertility. They were in their forties and unable to have children. Although they had a very different situation than the woman facing a crisis pregnancy, they were visiting the same OB-GYN. The doctor connected the Kaups with the unwed mother and they adopted her son, Ryan. The couple took him home three days after he was born.
Ryan loved his new home and lived peacefully with his parents on an acre of land in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Kaups were practicing Catholics and when Ryan grew older, they placed him in a Catholic high school and were very involved in their church.
But that didn’t mean Ryan didn’t struggle to stay on the right path. Ryan said, “I became more of a wallflower for the first couple years of high school. I spent more time by myself and with my coworkers who didn’t always have the best influence on me.”
Eventually though, Ryan found a group of friends who inspired him to be better and to stay close to his roots.
As his graduation day approached, he began considering colleges. He received a full scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska where he majored in Advertising and Spanish. Ryan also studied abroad for a semester in Chile.
Additionally, at the university he became very involved in the Catholic center. He developed friendships with other students who began showing him the joy of living for God. Ryan also observed other priests and started to feel that God was calling him to the priesthood.
“I met with my Vocation Director and filled out the application,” said Kaup. “And then I went away to Chile for a few months,” he added with a laugh.
When he returned from Chile, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Lincoln. Kaup said his family was extremely supportive of his decision to enter seminary. “My parents were so great,” he said with a smile – he always smiles when he talks about them. “They always supported me in anything I wanted to do.”
Despite his own desire and the support of his parents, Kaup got cold feet shortly before he was supposed to begin. “I called the Vocation Director and told him I had changed my mind, that I wasn’t coming,” explained Kaup. He found a job waiting tables and found an apartment to live in for the school year. Then he came back to his senses. “After about a week, I quit the job and backed out of the apartment,” recalled Kaup. “When I called my Vocation Director to see if I could still enter, it was almost as if he was expecting my call.”
Kaup finished his college studies at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, NE before arriving at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 2011 for graduate studies. Currently in his final year of seminary formation, Kaup is the president of the student body and spends his weekends preaching at St. Thomas Aquinas in South Philadelphia where he gets to use some of that Spanish he learned in Chile.
With ordination to the priesthood in sight, Kaup reflected on how he has changed since entering the seminary. “I’ve chilled out a lot,” said Kaup with sincerity. “I used to be an angry person. I wanted to control everything. My time here at the seminary has taught me to take things slower and to realize that God is in control. I can’t control everything and that is okay.”
With a nod to how far he’s come, Kaup also looked ahead to his future. “To be able to make God present for people in the Eucharist and to bring them His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is what I’m most looking forward to.”
In a matter of months, Rev. Mr. Ryan Allan Kaup will kneel down in the sanctuary of that Cathedral in Lincoln and offer his “yes” to God. I can’t help but think of his birth-mother whom he has never met. Does she know just how important her own “yes” of twenty-six years ago is?
If given the chance, I’d tell her that her little boy has grown up to be a man any parent would be proud to call their own. I’d tell her that he was raised in a Catholic home by two parents who defined love for him and taught him by their very way of life just what it means to be selfless. I’d tell her that those rough, rugged hands that drove his truck through the back roads of Nebraska are the same soft, forgiving hands that poured the waters of life over Juliana when he baptized her this summer. I’d tell her that he is one of the most gentle souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
And then I would thank her.
I’d thank her for giving us a gift that we’ll never be able to repay, a gift the value of which only God knows.