Since time immemorial, a lot of questions have been asked concerning the lives of Catholic priests. Are they born priests? Are they identified during childhood, isolated and raised up to be priests? And when they finally become priests, don’t they get to miss their past lives? The friends? The girlfriends just in case they had any? What do they do when they are done with mass? Since they have no wife or children, don’t they get bored?
To help understand the interesting but cryptic lives of Catholic priests, The Church Newspaper recently caught up with Fr. Lastone Robert Lupupa— the Catholic Church priest who was this past week under fire over some political sentiments he made during a sermon.
Fr Lupupa was born on October 5, 1965, in the Central Province town of Kabwe.
As a small boy growing up in Kabwe, his only ambition was to become a Catholic priest. And due to his active involvement in the Altar Boys Club (ABC), he interacted with lots of priests who provided the inspiration that he needed.
“What encouraged me so much to become a priest was the failure by missionaries to deliver the word because of their language incapacitation. So, I said to myself ‘if I became a priest, I would make a difference because I would speak the local language and I would use the proverbs and parables that people understand’,” recalled Fr. Lupupa.
In 1985, he completed secondary school but suddenly, the drive to become a priest disappeared. He explained that he up to now does not understand what really caused him to lose interest in the priesthood.
So, in 1986 instead of joining the Jesuits, he started working for Zambia Railways.
Things started going very well for him at Zambia Railways and the company appreciated his services by offering him a company house. And around that time, he met this very beautiful young lady whom he developed an interest in.
“Working for Zambia railways, I got to know this girl who was in grade eight until she finished school. And I was then considering seriously meeting her parents,” he recalled.
But just when his love story was unfolding, there was a knock on his “door”.
It was Jesus again knocking on his ‘door’— calling him into priesthood.
So, the young Lupupa had two options; First, he had the option of ignoring Jesus and go ahead and marry the love of his life. Lastly, he had the option of dumping the leading lady in his life so that he could follow Jesus.
After some serious thought, the young Lupupa chose the latter. He decided to dump his girlfriend for Jesus! He recalls that when he told her about his decision, she thought he was joking.
He recalled that it was a hard decision to make because even his friends were looking forward to his Wedding day.
“Today when I look back, I think that is one of the things I regret, having affected someone’s life to that extent. But that is life. I did not leave her for another woman, but I left her for the kingdom of God,” he said.
He later wrote to the Jesuits to consider him for priesthood.
Not too long afterwards, the Jesuits wrote back to him telling him that since they did not know what had happened to him between 1986 and 1990, it was agreed that they put him on discernment for a year.
Father Lupupa recalled that when he was given a year of discernment, he used to go and see the late Fr Felix Kalebwe, who not only counselled him but also slowly tried to understand his life.
At the end of that one year of discernment, Fr Kalebwe wrote to the Jesuits telling them that there was indeed a calling in the young Lupupa. He even recommended him to become a novice.
So, after spending a total of four years in the Zambia Railways, he quit his job.
He joined the Jesuits some 30 years ago on June 30.
Fr Lupupa said he was in formation for twelve years— a period in which he travelled to many, many different places as he acquired the required Jesuit training.
On July 12, 2003, he was ordained at Marian Shrine by the late Cardinal Merdado Mazombwe who was then Archbishop of Lusaka.
After his ordination, he was out of the country for 2 years. In 2006 when he returned to Zambia, he was posted to Chelston Catholic Parish. In 2013, he was moved to Matero Parish where he later becomes an acting parish priest.
Asked if he misses dating since he did date for some time before becoming a priest, Fr Lupupa responded in the negative saying God prepared him very well for priesthood.
“To be a priest is to be a facilitator of so many things. A priest prepares people for marriage and counsels them. I feel privileged to have undergone the desire to get married. The history of dating has made me understand the opposite sex and has helped me to help others to be sensitive in relationships,” said Fr Lupupa who also said that he does not regret having gotten involved in a relationship as he believes that was God’s plan for him.
Fr Lupupa also revealed that he does not notice women who want to seek his attention with wrong intentions.
Asked what advice he would give to young people who want to become priests, Fr Lupupa encouraged the would-be priests to work hard at school. He encouraged parents of such boys to teach their children to pray and raise them in the fear of God.
This article was written by Mary Mbewe and it first appeared in The Church Newspaper Zambia
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