She faces tragedies with prayer, hope

By Lisa Haefs | For The Compass | November 18, 2016

‘You must find the silver linings,’ says Antigo’s Scupien

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]ANTIGO — Moira Scupien’s life can be summed up in a few lines from a poem by the Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest born in Oak Grove, Wis., whose cause for canonization is still in the works: “Life is to live and life is to give, and talents are to use, for good if you choose.”

At 64, Scupien lives those words daily, working her way through a crush of activities that would suffocate many other volunteers.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Moira Scupien (Jim Martinsen | Special To The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Moira Scupien (Jim Martinsen | Special To The Compass)

“I get so frustrated when people say they will do something later, when they have time,” she says. “When is later? You have to do things for yourself, right now.”

Scupien honed her main passion — the arts — from a young age, directing her first play while still in high school in Stillwater, Minn. From there, she traveled through the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn., and then to Antigo, arriving in 1976 after her husband, Dick Kryzer, accepted a teaching position in the Antigo school district.

“I’ve always gravitated toward the arts,” she says. “All of us are gifted with something. Once you figure it out, use it.”

Within three years she became a founding member of Antigo Community Theatre, joining the group after reading an advertisement in the local newspaper. With $500 in seed money from the Antigo Junior Women’s Club, the fledgling group staged its first production a few months later, a cocktail theater melodrama named “The Labors of Love.”

“We thought a melodrama would be easy and fun and lighthearted,” Scupien says. ‘The only problem is we did it in a cocktail lounge and people kept throwing popcorn at the lead characters.”

It was a wonderful time. But then tragedy struck. Her husband was killed in a car accident in 1981, leaving her a widow at 29, with three children, ages 5, 3 and 1.

“I was a stay-at-home mom,” Scupien says, “and I had no idea what to do.”

What she did, before, during and after that ordeal, was pray.

“When it is just you, prayer is where you go,” she says, adding that she received a strong spiritual grounding as a child. “I was grateful I had that to go to. Even at the funeral Mass, I felt a tremendous calm. I felt we would be OK.”

Although she had no family in Antigo, she decided to stay, a decision, she says, that has rewarded her many times over.

In 1984, she married Don Scupien, whom she met while volunteering as an aide at St. John Catholic School, where he was principal.

“The rest is history,” she says, adding that together they raised a “yours, mine and ours” family of six.

There were triumphs, such as dozens of successful community theater productions. But there were tragedies as well — including a stillborn daughter, a sledding accident that left a son paralyzed at age 16 and the drowning of a grandchild.

Through it all, there was faith and hope.

“You must find the silver linings,” she says. “Don’t go to dark places.”

She has continued to immerse herself in live theater as an actor, director, singer and, probably on occasion, stagehand. She has assisted in elementary and high school events and was active in Antigo Community Theatre’s latest production, “9 to 5: The Musical,” which just completed its six-show run.

“I love community theater because it gives people who are talented an opportunity to give their gifts back,” she says. “It’s not just the actors, it’s the musicians and the carpenters who make the sets and the people who design the programs, all the things that go into making a production. It really brings a community together.”

Scupien also shares her talents in her church, St. John the Evangelist, as a cantor and choir member, member of the worship committee and head of publicity for the International Food and Fall Festival. She was also chair of the former Fall Festival and coordinator of  Staying Connected, a now-discontinued program that sought to keep the church in touch with students who have left for college.

And she regularly attends Mass, which she calls “a spiritual shot.”

Theater is a passion, but there are others as well.

For 18 years, Scupien taught fitness classes through the Langlade County Department on Aging. She now teaches  at the community’s Clara R. McKenna Aquatic Center, focusing on body movement in the water through gentle movements and more high-energy aerobics.

“The payback is the gift of watching people feel better,” Scupien says.

Scupien still finds time for more, including campaigning for social justice issues, a tenet of Pope Francis. “I want to protect people from womb to tomb,” she says.

Scupien’s favorite Fr. Solanus poem goes on to read: “Every day you shall wonder at yourself … at the richness of life which has come to you by the Grace of God.”

She says she has found that richness and always tries to share it with others.

“I’m always trying to get the arts going somewhere,” she continued. “Culture is the pulse of the community. You need the arts for your soul, for balance.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Moira Scupien
Parish: St. John the Evangelist, Antigo
Age: 64
Favorite religious figure: Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey
Words to live by: “Thank God ahead of time.”
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