Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Standing in the narthex, Deacon Joe Pupo of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, blesses a statue of the Holy Family intended for a Hispanic family in Roswell, as Gabriela Mejorado stands in the background. Deacon Pupo’s primary assignment is at St. Thomas Aquinas, but since July 2015 he has gone up to St. Clement Church, Calhoun, once a month to assist with Mass and baptism preparation classes. Photo By Michael Alexander


Deacon shared by two parishes is Pastoral Plan in action

By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published November 3, 2016

For the Jubilee of Deacons in May, Pope Francis addressed deacons as servants of the church, encouraging them not to worry about timetables in being available to others.

logo pastoral plan“A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest,” said Pope Francis.

Following are profiles of two deacons serving with devotion in carrying out the work of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan—Deacon Mike Bickerstaff and Deacon Joe Pupo.

Deacon Bickerstaff’s adult education ministry at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, and Deacon Pupo’s dual assignment inside and outside his own parish are examples of meeting priorities of the pastoral plan—to know, live and spread the faith, and help parishes evolve.


CALHOUN—Deacon Joe Pupo, who lives in Roswell and serves at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta, takes to the highway on the first Sunday of each month.

Deacon Pupo is one of just a handful of archdiocesan deacons with a dual assignment. He travels to St. Clement Church in Calhoun on that designated Sunday to assist the pastor, Father Joseph Shaute.

“Calhoun is 61 miles from my house,” said Deacon Pupo.

The deacon, born in Cuba and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, helps with the Spanish Masses, including preaching, with baptism preparation and in supporting the parish catechists.

Deacon Pupo said he arrives in Calhoun by 11 a.m. and leaves around 9 p.m.

About 65 percent of the parish’s 1,200 members are Hispanic, noted Deacon Pupo.

“I think the community is very welcoming,” said the deacon, ordained in 2009.

Deacon Pupo has found that being willing to serve there has enriched his ministry as well.

“Obviously, it’s helping me with my preaching abilities in Spanish,” he said.

Deacon Pupo has been making the once-a-month trip to St. Clement for one year. The director of the permanent diaconate for the archdiocese, Deacon Dennis Dorner suggested Deacon Pupo as a good fit.

“Father Shaute spoke with Deacon Dorner to see if someone could help,” he recalled.

Father Shaute, who is bilingual, had met Deacon Pupo when he was master of ceremonies for an Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day Mass at St. Clement celebrated by Bishop Luis R. Zarama. The pastor was looking for greater assistance in meeting the needs of the largely Hispanic parish.

Deacon Pupo didn’t agree immediately to the proposed assignment but prayed about it. He is the pastoral ministries director at St. Thomas Aquinas, and gained the blessing of pastor Msgr. Dan Stack for the dual role.

Msgr. Stack told him, “Whatever it takes. I’m really proud of you.”

“If anyone would be willing to share, it would be Msgr. Stack,” said Father Shaute. “He was more than generous.”

Msgr. Stack termed it “the Pastoral Plan in practice.”

Pastor says people benefit “from a different voice … presence”

Father Shaute feels a connection to Deacon Pupo as they both had military upbringings.

St. Clement has one assigned deacon, Brad Krupa. Deacon Krupa assists with many ministries and handles all of the parish maintenance needs. He speaks little Spanish.

“He’s also trying to juggle,” explained Father Shaute.

The pastor wishes Deacon Pupo could be there more often.

“It’s a blessing and an incredible thing. It’s a win-win not only for me, but also the people,” said Father Shaute. “The people get a different voice and a different presence.”

In Latin America, the people are primarily familiar with deacons as transitional deacons, indicated Father Shaute. The vocation of the permanent diaconate is new to the Hispanics of his parish.

“Hopefully, it will inspire some vocations,” he said.

Another surprise is that Deacon Pupo has not shied away from tough topics while preaching. He delivered a homily on same sex marriages right off the bat, said Father Shaute.

“It was timely and appropriate,” he said. “He said it with compassion and also with passion.”

The pastor said two teens in the parish were struggling with the issue of same sex attraction, and it helped them tremendously to hear from someone else.

“It’s a reinforcement,” he said.

Experience of sharing deacon’s service is very positive

Father Shaute said sometimes there is a parochial mindset among the permanent diaconate that a deacon’s ministry is in one place.

“There are more ways of serving,” he emphasized.

Of course there is a balance for permanent deacons who have families, but perhaps more deacons will consider helping out parishes in need, he suggested.

He hopes other sharing arrangements come about for parishes in the archdiocese.

Deacon Pupo also sits in on baptism classes and has helped some families find godparents who meet church requirements.

According to Father Shaute, Deacon Pupo has formed a good bond with the catechists.

“He’s really affirmed them,” he said. “His presence has been empowering. They’ve developed a camaraderie.”

Religious education was a ministry of interest for Pupo before ordination, and he served as a religious education teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas. At St. Clement, the focus is on young adults who never received proper formation.

“They don’t know all the teachings of the church,” said the deacon.

Pupo worked in sales for the Campbell’s Soup Co., relocating to Atlanta in 1994. After a partnership with Coca-Cola ended three years ago, he had the opportunity to move to Philadelphia.

He and his wife, Lyadel, decided to stay in Georgia.

“My wife likes it here,” he said.

Deacon Pupo, a member of the Knights of Columbus, recently completed a Villanova University course in church management. One of the key elements of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan is to give increased administrative duties to qualified deacons so priests may focus on the sacraments.

Deacon Pupo is additionally helping deliver a message of integration for the different cultural groups of St. Clement, which also includes Filipino, Anglo and Vietnamese parishioners.

The pastor likes to watch the people when it’s Deacon Pupo’s turn to deliver a homily. “You see what people respond to,” he said.

The deacon and Father Shaute communicate regularly about schedule conflicts.

“Father Shaute asks, ‘Are you OK?’” said Deacon Pupo. “I enjoy it.”

The parish is starting to see the fruits of the deacon’s “always authentic” service.

“People have gotten to know him. He’s become part of the parish family,” said Father Shaute. “He loves the Church, and he is so excited and joyful to be Catholic.”