Catholic priest to compete in demolition derby

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(Host) Every Sunday the Reverend Daniel Rupp conducts mass at two different churches in the Northeast Kingdom.

It’s a busy day for the only Catholic priest in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg.

But one Sunday this month, Rupp will head from church to the Orleans County Fairgrounds.

VPR’s Steve Zind explains:

(Church organ music and singing)

(Zind) The Reverend Daniel Rupp’s weekday morning masses at the Conversion of Saint Paul Catholic Church in Barton are quiet affairs. On this particular day, Rupp leads about a dozen parishioners in hymns and prayers.

(Rupp) “Lord Jesus, you raise us to new life. Lord have mercy “

(Zind) After mass, Rupp slips out of his vestments, drives through town to a local garage and climbs into the car he’ll be driving this month in the Orleans County Fair Demolition Derby.

(Car engine starts)

(Zind) On the floor next to Rupp there’s a car battery and a gas can. Except for the seat Rupp is sitting in, everything has been stripped out of the interior. On the outside, the once maroon Mercury Grand Prix is now painted plain white – except for four big red numerals on the doors.

(Rupp) “Its 28-14, like Acts of the Apostles, chapter 28, verse 14. That’s the passage where St. Paul arrives in Rome.”

(Zind) The passage is appropriate because Rupp is driving in the demolition derby to raise money for a trip to Rome by teachers and students at St. Paul’s School in Barton.

At least that’s the practical reason. But you get the sense that Rupp would be happy to drive in a demolition derby even if there wasn’t a cause to promote.

(Rupp) “Yea, I might have been interested anyway. It definitely tweaks my interest.”

(Zind) The 39 year old Rupp has had a lifelong love of cars. He owns a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am that he likes to tinker with. His taste in driving music runs to 38 Special and Rick Springfield.

As a child, Rupp was a fan of the Television series The Dukes of Hazzard, which featured a car called the General Lee. He still watches the occasional rerun. When it came to naming his demolition derby ride he thought of the General Lee.

(Rupp) “Somebody said, ‘how about the Vicar General.’ Because my former pastor Father Routhier is the new Vicar General for the Diocese. So I said, ‘that’s it. We’ll call it the Vicar General.”

(Zind) Rupp says the only advice he’s received from Vermont’s Catholic diocese is: don’t get hurt.

He says he’s been told by experienced demolition derby drivers that he’ll be a little stiff in the days following the event.

For added protection he’ll wear a neck brace over his clerical collar.

As for whether or not there’s a patron saint of demolition derbies who might be petitioned on his behalf…

(Rupp) “I don’t know that there is. St. Jude, lost causes, I suppose.”


(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Barton.

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