BALTIMORE -- When the Rev. Jeffrey Dauses was starting out in his life as a Catholic priest, tradition held that the parents of a newly ordained young man should give him a special gift to mark the occasion: the chalice, or goblet, he'd use to offer Holy Communion to the faithful.
In many ways, Dauses' was more special than most. His working-class parents scrimped and saved $1,800 to have his brass-and-silver version made. William Borders, the 13th Archbishop of Baltimore, blessed it at a private Mass. And Dauses brought it with him to one parish posting after another, from Frederick and Clarksville to Baltimore and Bel Air.
All of which is why Dauses, now pastor of St. Andrew by the Bay Parish near Annapolis, was devastated when the chalice mysteriously went missing five years ago.
"Maybe I can get across how precious a chalice is (to a priest) by saying it's like someone's wedding ring," the 56-year-old cleric says. "Imagine taking a trip to Ocean City, and your ring goes missing, and you never find it. It's the kind of thing that can haunt you for years."
Suddenly, he got it back last month. But that's just part of the story.
Dauses was educated by Franciscans -- an order of Catholic priests and brothers with a notable indifference to possessions. Congregants say he's known for giving away nearly every present he receives.
So when they heard him speak so often about the chalice, they knew it meant something.
"Father Jeff is a minimalist," says Erin Tate, a former director of faith formation for children at St. Andrew. "He owns very few possessions, and the chalice is the only one I've ever heard him talk about."
It was early in 2015 when Dauses told friends he planned to send the chalice, tarnished from years of use, to a silversmith for repair in honor of the approaching 25th anniversary of his ordination.
Tate, now a stay-at-home mother in Annapolis, recalls him being nervous about even putting it in the mail.