A GIFTED PRIEST
You have your advocates of “sanctity.” You have your advocates of “welcoming.”
You have your organ music lovers. You have your guitar fans.
And don’t even go near the ongoing debate over communion in the hand.
For all that, it’s been my experience that the greatest determinant of parish spirit — both in communal worship and in overall faith life — is the pastor.
The priest sets the tone.
A good priest brings all the factions together, bridging divergent expectations and points of view.
A great priest creates an atmosphere of love.
Fr. Joe Krupp is such a priest.
The self-described “German farm boy” combines formidable communication skills with a sense of humor and a remarkably warm personality that meets people “where they are,” appreciating their individual gifts, and calling them to open their hearts to others.
In his witty and down-to-earth homilies, as in his Scripture teaching, Fr. Joe presents the Faith with orthodoxy, conviction and clarity, blending scholarly perspective with an ability to relate the Christian message and Church history to current everyday life experiences.
As a confessor he sets people at ease, gets to the heart of their moral concerns, and (often by sharing his own life experiences) sends penitents off cleansed, encouraged, and feeling that they don’t have to face their challenges alone.
Over the past seven years, this unique combination of assets has had a strikingly positive impact on two very different parishes.
St. Mary on the Lake in Manitou Beach, Michigan, is a parish with a split personality. In the warm season, it’s swollen with lake-cottage summer folk. In winter it’s reduced to a small congregation heavy with retirees and farm families.
For the year-rounders, Fr. Joe has been a living testament to diocesan awareness of what might otherwise be a peripheral outpost of a large and geographically diverse episcopal territory.
To the summer people, he’s that unique priest they talk about to their friends back home, look forward to seeing during lake months, and probably measure their hometown pastors against.
Sacred Heart, in nearby Hudson, is a parish with a distinctive history and very different character. Started in the 1800s as a mission church by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, it hit a rough patch in the 1990s that reflected Michigan’s economic turndown in manufacturing and agriculture. By the early 2000s, when it was transferred to the Diocese of Lansing, its historic stone church and its parish school were facing extensive deferred maintenance, and many debts had long gone unpaid.
Fr. Joe has boosted the previously struggling congregation, attracting many young families in particular. He has paid off the debts, undertaken an extensive renovation program, and given support to an aggressive growth campaign for Sacred Heart School, one of the few remaining Catholic elementary schools in the southern tier of the Lansing Diocese.
A week ago, both St. Mary and Sacred Heart received some very disheartening news: Fr. Joe is being transferred. He will be in a similar dual-parish assignment, pastoring Saint Mark in Goodrich and Holy Family in Grand Blanc.
This move comes about because Monsignor Gerald Vincke, who had led those two parishes, has been appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas.
It represents a personal advantage to Fr. Joe, because it puts him back in home territory, the Flint area of Michigan, where he grew up and has family. To the people of St. Mary and Sacred Heart it’s a blow.
You may have heard of Fr. Joe Krupp, either through his monthly column in Faith Magazine, his highly visible Facebook presence, or his work as chaplain of Michigan State University’s football team.
If that’s the extent of your awareness, you should know that this is a true priest of inspiring faith, recognizable talent, and infectious joy. He’s able to unify the many disparate factions of a parish, bridge liturgical preferences, and create enduring loyalty among those who champion all pious practices.
As my wife, Kathy, observes, if you’ve ever known Fr. Joe, you can’t forget him.
I’ve been honored to know and work with him during the last few years of my long association with Sacred Heart’s music ministry.
The people up north at Saint Mark and Holy Family are receiving a wonderful gift in their new pastor. Down here in our part of the diocese, however — where his influence on the spirit of two very different parishes has been profound — he will be greatly missed.
May God be with Fr. Joe. And may He bless our new pastor, Fr. Todd Koenigsknecht.
Here’s a fun image of Fr. Joe Krupp. This and the photo at the top were taken by Michigan photographer Todd Lancaster for marketing materials used in promoting Sacred Heart School. It captures his warmth — and Fr. Joe says it’s a favorite.
…and his Faith Magazine column, “In the Know with Fr. Joe”…