Ruggero (Roger) Maria Caputo was born May 1, 1907, in Barletta, in southeastern Italy, to a humble family with strong moral and religious principles. During his childhood and into his adolescence, he was fortunate to come under the guidance of Don Angelo Dimiccoli, a priest who loved his faith deeply. Don Angelo had the ability to instill in his young students a strong desire to follow Jesus. (Father Angelo, later archbishop, is himself recognized as Servant of God.)
Father Angelo’s influence on Ruggero was quite powerful. When Ruggero was 19, he felt the call to the priesthood, but he had left school in third grade to work in the fields. He now wanted to enter the seminary, but his education was almost non-existent. So he left his work behind him and found himself attending school, sitting among third graders. He was determined to do what was necessary to become a priest, wanting nothing less than to serve his Lord.
He studied hard to qualify for the Pontifical Regional Seminary so he could receive his high school education and move on to his theological studies. Working intently, he even had to squeeze in a year of military service for the province of Chieti. Ruggero never wavered in his quest, and on July 25, 1937, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Barletta.
A simple and humble man, content with being a shepherd
Don (Father) Caputo began his ministry serving an ongoing role as assistant pastor at many parishes. He was a simple and humble man and never aspired to high office. He was content with doing his work as a shepherd spreading devotion and love for God, and continually working to save souls.
During Don Ruggero’s lifetime, his deep love for God spread out to inspire at least a dozen vocations to the priesthood and over 150 women religious vocations. At the same time, he organized several lay apostolates for teens and young adults.
His influence and success in fostering vocations came from his daily devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Next to his love for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he loved Eucharistic Adoration. He spent as much time as he could in front of Jesus.
“A soul in love with the Blessed Sacrament”
One of the women inspired by Don Ruggero to become a nun recalled, “Don Ruggero was a soul in love with the Blessed Sacrament. We girls, if we needed his help, went to church to find him behind the column on his knees, on the ground, in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, absorbed in deep, silent, and mystical Eucharistic conversation. Here was the strength, the energy that he gave to us. This is what he put in our veins; to be all for Jesus.”
On July 1,1951, Don Ruggero Caputo was transferred as an assistant pastor to the Holy Spirit parish. This was the beginning of his moving from parish to parish because his superiors were alarmed at the notoriety Don Ruggero was receiving. Young people loved him and flocked to him, and his success with conversions had lit a fire of jealousy among the higher-ups.
“He forgave and consoled more than your own father—”
However, the more he was seen and the more people who heard him speak, the more his following increased. Sister Maria Antonina said, “As soon as you approached him, you realized that he really loved Jesus, and you.”
Sister Antonia Distaso said, “He forgave and consoled more than your own father, even when he encountered opposition.”
Towards the end of his life, he was hospitalized with a painful illness that kept him bedridden. One of the nuns who was caring for him quoted Don Ruggero as saying, “Now I have to do my part. As St. Paul says, ‘I complete in my flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, in favor of His body which is the Church.‘”
Before dying, he said, “You will bury me underground among the people. Because even after I die, I want to stay a priest to the people.” Don Ruggero Caputo passed away on June 15, 1980.
On January 21, 2021, Pope Francis confirmed the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God Ruggero Maria Caputo. He now bears the title of Venerable, and his cause for beatification is moving forward.