Fr. Charles J. (Charlie; Chuck) Duster ('61) passed away peacefully at Bellevue, Nebraska in the early morning of March 7, 2017. May he rest in peace.
Fr. Charlie was born September 15, 1934 in Cedar Rapids, IA, where his parents Charles Henry Duster and Cleo Catherine Handley Duster owned and operated a supermarket. He has an older brother William C. Duster (Audrey) of Littleton CO, a sister Mrs. Robert Enns (Katie) of Fort Pierce, FL, and eleven nieces and nephews and their families. His older sister, Margaret Jeanne Duster, died in 1972.
Fr. Charlie attended Immaculate Conception Grade and High School in Cedar Rapids, IA, (1952). After high school he attended Regis University, Denver, CO (1952-53) and Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI (1953-1954).
After briefly considering medical school he instead decided to enter the seminary to become a Columban missionary priest. During the following two years he studied spirituality, philosophy and theology at St. Columban’s College, Milton, MA, St. Columban’s, Bristol, RI, and at St. Columban’s Major Seminary, Milton, MA. As an exchange student, he completed his studies in theology at St. Columban’s Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland (1958 – ’61), and was then ordained a priest of the Missionary Society of St. Columban at the Columban Major Seminary Chapel, Milton, MA, on December 21, 1961. He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Cedar Rapids on December 31st.
In 1962, Fr. Charlie was assigned to Columban Region of Japan where he spent the next six years. The first two of these were spent studying Japanese language in Tokyo, the third one as Acting Regional Bursar, and the last three years as Associate Pastor at Shingu Catholic Church, Wakayama Prefecture, in the diocese of Osaka.
In July 1967, Fr. Charlie visited the Philippines, accompanied by a Columban confrere. After spending some days with Columban colleagues on the island of Negros, they narrowly missed their flight back to the capitol, Manila, because the plane departed a few minutes ahead of schedule, due to severe weather conditions. The next morning they learned the plane, a DC3, had crashed into a mountain and all 21 passengers and 3 crew members perished.
From 1969 – ‘72, Fr. Charlie became the Columban Vocation Director for the Midwest Region of the U.S. based in Omaha. Afterwards, he continued a similar ministry while residing at the Columban house in Chicago. He then served a year in the Archdiocese of St. Paul as Chaplain at Hennepin County General Hospital in Minneapolis accompanied by studies in Clinical Pastoral Care.
In November of 1974, Fr. Charlie was assigned to the Columban Region of Fiji, Archdiocese of Suva. After initial language studies, he was appointed as Associate Pastor in Holy Family Parish, Nabala, Macuata, and a year later as Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Solevu, Bua, where he served for six years. Following home leave in 1980 he did renewal studies at Notre Dame University. On his return to Fiji he became the Regional Vice-Director. He returned to the U.S. to undergo by-pass surgery in Houston, Texas in 1982. Upon returning to Fiji later that year, Fr. Charlie was appointed as Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Suva, and served in this position for four years.
In September, 1986, he was appointed Rector of Collegio San Columbano in Rome where he was Superior of the sixteen-member community. During his eight years in Rome, he also earned a licentiate and doctorate in Canon Law at the Angelicum University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Before being reassigned to the Fijian Region, he worked for six months in the Marriage Tribunal in the Archdiocese of Dubuque in order to gain matrimonial law experience.
Fr. Charlie returned to Fiji in November, 1994, and served for six years as the Coordinator of the Columban Lay Mission Program, while teaching Canon Law at the Pacific Regional Seminary. In December 1998 he returned to the U.S. to undergo by-pass surgery for the second time, but returned to Fiji seven months later to continue his ministry to Columban Lay Missionaries. In December, 2003, he was appointed as Associate Pastor at Holy Family Parish, Labasa, where he served until returning to the U.S. in September 2005. His return to the U.S. was prompted by doctors’ recommendation that he should reside in a place where he could receive monitored medical attention, which was unavailable in Fiji.
He was assigned to the Columban Magnolia house in Chicago where he worked on Mission Promotion and Vocations (2005 – ’11) and served as house Superior (2008-’11). In 2011 he began work at the Omaha office in Planned Giving and Development, and later combined this ministry with Superior of the Omaha community (2012 – 2016).
Fr. Charlie’s warm and outgoing personality, many talents, and deep commitment to his vocation as a Columban missionary priest, drew many people to God in the various places where he ministered. Wherever he was sent, his ability to recognize and celebrate all that was good in the world around him made him a truly joyful messenger of the Good News.
Visitation 4-6 p.m. Monday, March 13 at St. Mary Catholic Church, Bellevue, NE, followed by Mass at 6 p.m.
Visitation 1-2 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Cedar Rapids, IA, followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 2 p.m.
Interment: Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Cedar Rapids, IA