Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 28, 2002
Paralyzed seminarian prepares to return
Car crash hasn't dulled man's desire to respond to call
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Murray Chupka's journey to the priesthood has been rough, some might say tragic, but faith-filled.
Spiritually, Chupka explored Anglican beliefs, then Baptist teachings, but returned to the Catholic Church and attended John Paul II Bible School in 1997.
During his three years at Bible school he heard his call to the priesthood.
But after only one year of novitiate with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa, Chupka was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The seminarian had just passed Gibbons when he fell asleep at the wheel and his vehicle collided with a semi and a mini-van.
That crash may have crippled his body but not his spirit. Chupka remains faith-filled and praying for a miracle. "I believe God is going to lift me up back to my feet," said the 27-year-old man.
So next fall, Chupka plans to return to the seminary and continue his novitiate.
"God has spared my life, my arms and hands," Chupka told the WCR.
Those hands strum the guitar, a passion in Chupka's life that allows him "to worship him through music. The Holy Spirit, it's God Almighty who keeps me going and moving forward into his plan for my life. I'm excited to see where he is going to lead me."
Father Lionel Gendron, rector of St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, told the WCR that a person's physical handicap is not an impediment to his entry to the seminary to discern his vocation to the priesthood. In the past the Archdiocese of Montreal has accepted handicapped men.
However, the situation calls for a special and serious discernment on the part of the seminarian, the formation team, the diocese or the religious community, Gendron said.
A candidate's ability to serve the people and the Church are a major consideration in such discernment, he said.
Chupka's profound faith moved his friends and colleagues to organize a benefit concert to raise funds for a wheelchair van to give him the mobility and freedom to pursue his vocation. The idea to hold the concert came from a Bible school staff member whose sisters were involved in a similar accident.
John Connelly of JP II Bible School, together with Mark Mallett, Janelle Reinhart, Living Communion and other musical guests gave a three-hour concert Jan. 19 at Radway Agri Center.
"As soon as it was suggested we just got fired with it and took off from there," Connelly said. Support for the cause was amazing. "Murray is a very unique person and he's touched all of our lives."
Chupka's father Marvin experienced that special quality that surrounds his son even when he was born. Marvin felt graced by God but at the same time, unworthy and, in his prayers, he offered his son back to God.
"I wasn't really prepared to be the kind of father I needed to be to look after this gift, this very precious gift."
Marvin remembered his son's interest in the faith even as a child. Three-year-old Murray saw a picture of the crucifixion, pointed to Jesus' wounds and asked, "Dad, does that hurt Jesus?"
"I said, 'Yes that hurts him very much.' And (Murray) started to cry."
The incident told Marvin something about his son's potential vocation even then.
Harriet, Chupka's mother, believes "in God's time, I think he going to walk again."
Still, it's been difficult for the Chupkas. Marvin said that they did not know if Murray was going to live during the first few days because he couldn't breathe.
"God gave him back the breathing," Marvin said. "If you take our emotions out of this, if you take us out of this and you watch what happened from the day of the accident right through to now, God has been working."
Praise and worship sessions flooded around Chupka's bed at the Glenrose Hospital, prompting one patient to say to Harriet, "Murray is the reason that I am recovering."
The Chupkas are grateful for the prayers offered on Murray's behalf.
"I really believe God will hear the prayers of the people," Harriet said.
Her son's faith is just as strong.
"When the accident happened, what immediately came to me was God saying, 'Don't worry I want to be glorified through this,'" Murray told more than 400 people who attended his fundraising concert. "I pray the next time I'm here I'll be standing and talking to you."
The Radway benefit raised $24,000, $6,000 short of the $30,000 price tag on the wheelchair van Murray needs.
Those who want to help meet that goal can send their donations to John Paul II Bible School, attn: Murray Chupka Fund, Box 99, Radway, AB, T0A 2V0 or phone Lorretta at (780) 736-3833.