Through tragedy, Monroe man finds Catholic Church

A year after losing wife, David Cupp says ‘Diana would be proud’

David Cupp and his daughter, Melissa Maniaci, hold a photo of David and his late wife, Diana, on one of their many cruises taken during Diana’s life. This photo was taken at St. John the Baptist Parish, Monroe, where David is attending RCIA classes.

David Cupp and his daughter, Melissa Maniaci, hold a photo of David and his late wife, Diana, on one of their many cruises taken during Diana’s life. This photo was taken at St. John the Baptist Parish, Monroe, where David is attending RCIA classes.

Monroe — Though David Cupp had not “practiced much of anything for years,” he admits that he has “always believed in a man above.”

Today he is a candidate in the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program at St. John the Baptist Parish in Monroe, planning to join the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil. One year ago, however, he never would have imagined himself in this spot.

One year ago, on March 26, 2013, his wife, Diana, died in a car collision caused by a reckless driver.

The driver survived and is now in prison, but David Cupp was lost, feeling the painful absence of his wife of 40 years and strong pillar for their family.

It was only when the daughter of the Cupps’ neighbors approached Deacon Mike Stewart of St. John the Baptist Parish about an unusual request that things began to change.


A godmother

The young woman, whose parents are Bobby and Ronnie Sue Poupard, told Deacon Stewart that she had previously asked Diana Cupp to be her child’s godmother.

But now that Diana was deceased, the woman wanted to know whether Diana Cupp could serve in the role posthumously.

Deacon Stewart explained that this was not possible; however, he pointed out, “Diana now has the capacity to do so much more” through her prayers, and arranged to have a brief memorial for Diana Cupp during the baptism service.

Before the baptism, David Cupp was going through some items that had belonged to his wife, and came across a poem.

“Diana had written a poem for the baby’s baptism,” said David Cupp, and realized that she truly had it all taken care of from the start.

On the baptism day, Deacon Stewart placed a small table with a picture of Diana, a votive candle and some flowers near the baptismal font.

David Cupp was present at the baptism, too. When it came the time for the godparents to pledge spiritual support for the child, Deacon Stewart invited David Cupp to join them at the front of the church.

“We all came around that table with Diana’s picture and asked God not only to bless Diana, but also to let the child know he has someone watching over him from heaven,” Deacon Stewart said.


 Thinking about the Church

The experience was profound. After the baptism, “I went home and did more contemplating,” said David Cupp.

Diana Cupp herself had been Catholic, and David Cupp recalls her going to Saturday night Mass every week with her mother. The Cupps’ daughter, Melissa Maniaci, is also Catholic.

“I told Bobby and Ronnie and Melissa, ‘I’m thinking about joining the Church,’” David Cupp said. “Ronnie said, ‘me too.’”

Bobby Poupard, who had been long estranged from Catholicism, returned to the Church, and his wife, who had never been Christian, contacted Deacon Stewart, who also leads the parish’s RCIA classes, about being baptized.

“We found out that RCIA would start in a week,” David Cupp said. Regardless, he and Ronnie Poupard joined the other RCIA candidates and catechumens preparing to fully join the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2014.

David Cupp asked his daughter to be his sponsor.

“It was an honor for him to ask me,” Maniaci said. “I never thought in a million years that he’d become Catholic,” adding that her mother would have been surprised, too.

But even more so, said David Cupp, “Diana would be proud of us.”


Broken people

A few weeks ago, St. John the Baptist Parish candidates and catechumens attended the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion celebration at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

David Cupp said he was struck by all of the people filling the cathedral, “rooting” for him and each of his fellow RCIA members: “The community was there together,” he realized.

Deacon Stewart pointed out that everyone in the cathedral, whether longtime Catholics or going through RCIA, were all “images of broken people.”

“There were people sitting in those pews with issues, some of which we knew about; some we didn’t,” he said. “We always talk about in RCIA that this is what life gives us, and what are we called to do because of it?”

Maniaci said that during the dark days following the accident, there were times when she did not want to go to church, “but those were the times my husband said I really needed it.”

And each time, listening to the Gospel readings, “it would always click.”

David Cupp said he is grateful for this new journey in his life, and despite the still-present sadness of missing her, “I know Diana would be pleased.”

“What keeps you sane is that you have to believe,” he said. “That there’s a true God.”


Process of forgiveness

The Cupp family, Deacon Stewart and the rest of the community don’t know why Diana Cupp was taken. David Cupp said the neighbors had always called her “Saint Diana” and that she could always find goodness in everyone.

“You could give her the worst person and she could find good in them,” Maniaci said.

David Cupp is walking the path toward one day forgiving the person who killed his wife, he said.

“The week we talked about reconciliation in RCIA was the week the young man who killed Diana was sentenced,” said Deacon Stewart. “We talked openly about ‘what is forgiveness.’”

When David Cupp had to face the man in court that week, he left open the possibility that he might someday be able to fully forgive because of his own growing conversion.

“Jesus never said to love the sin, but wants us to move toward loving the sinner,” said Deacon Stewart. “I’ve been blessed to be involved in RCIA for many years. But Dave has made the journey real for all of us.”