Letter from Fr. Mike


by

Fr. Mike Steber


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Since this is my first time writing to you as co-liaison with Kathy Gautcher, IÕd like to share a bit with you as a personal introduction. I'm a native of Menominee, MI, my parents being Mary Alice and Joseph Steber (Dad passed into eternal life in 2000), and I'm the eldest of five sons. One of my brothers, Joel, is also with the Lord in heaven, having died as an infant, and my other brothers are David, Mark, and Tom. It has been a great blessing to have been raised in a Catholic family environment by faithful, loving parents! Mom and Dad sang in the parish choir since my childhood, and gave us all a witness of fidelity, charity, and generous service, with regular Mass participation and family prayer in the home.

Though I received God's grace through my own Baptism, Confirmation and regular Eucharist, as a high school student I drifted from the practice of regular Confession. I didn't know our faith well or pray too much, though I regularly attended Mass. While in college at Michigan State right after high school, I attended the local parish Masses and got into an ecumenical Bible study, in which I think the Lord began to get His 'foot in the door' of my heart more. He attracted me to His person as I read the Gospels more than I had previouslyÉ But I didn't let the door open too wide just then!

My stay at Michigan State was brief back in the Fall of 1972, and because I didn't have a clear direction for my studies, I decided to return home that winter and work until I gained more direction. It was in the following years while working various jobs that I began a deeper personal search for direction not only for education and career, but for the real meaning and purpose in my life - a deeper search for the Lord, who was drawing me quietly.

Art work had been a creative expression for me for some time, and I had begun doing more of it in those years. My mother (how God uses moms!) volunteered my abilities for a parish booklet cover, for which I was asked to do a drawing of the risen Christ. This project attracted me, and I began working on my version of how Jesus may have appeared. I had been attending local parishes, and was being attracted to the Lord in hearing homilies about relationship with Jesus, the person and action of the Holy Spirit, and about growing in prayer and discipleship. One of the priests in the area was involved in charismatic renewal (Fr. Walter Sheedlo), though I didn't know much about it. But I was soon to find out more.

While visiting one of the art galleries in which I was selling some of my work - one in the city of Escanaba where I now serve - I happened to mention to the proprietor that I was working on a picture of the risen Lord. She asked me if I was involved in prayer groups or Bible studies, and I replied that I wasn't, but that I enjoyed listening to some of the homilies of the priest who was involved in the charismatic renewal. This dear woman was attuned enough to the Lord that she saw an opportunity to share more with me in a way that allowed me to open the door of my life more to the real risen Lord. She asked if I had some time to talk, to which I agreed, and we went into a side room in the gallery. Then I heard her say some words which I had never heard with quite such a simplicity and attractive power before: "Mike, Jesus Christ has really changed our lives." She wasnÕt pushing me like a street fundamentalist evangelist, but just sharing the reality of the Lord's work in her life and it was both attractive and a bit challenging. Next, she even called up her daughter and asked her to share with me over the phone how the Lord had touched her life! By now I really was struck by how real the Lord was to them and a desire was awakened within me for that same kind of knowledge and living relationship...

The proprietor gave me a couple of books on life in the Holy Spirit, and I drove home praying in my own heart for the Lord to help me know Him more deeply. It was only a few months after that when I spotted an ad in the parish bulletin for a "Life in the Spirit" seminar to be offered - this was in the winter of 1976. I attended the seminar put on by the New Wine Prayer Group in Marinette and though itÕs a clichˇ saying, it is true to say that my life has never been the same since. My return to the sacrament of Confession opened the door of my soul to the Good Shepherd, Who gave me healing mercy .With the Baptism in the Spirit later in Holy Week of 1976 came new gifts and a fostering of fruits of the Spirit that continues today in my ongoing conversion. In the Fall of that same year I made a Cursillo at Marygrove and found more wonderful ways that the Lord is alive in His Church, more forms of community and evangelization.

As a young person, I had never really seriously considered the priesthood as a calling for myself. But through the gentle and persistent inspiration of the Spirit, the good example of priests in my home area, and the loving, encouraging folks in the prayer group, I was able to hear and respond to that call. It's unlikely, I think, that I would be a priest today had I not been introduced to the deeper release of the Holy Spirit and blessed by an environment that helped me to discern and respond more in trust to God's inner call. After a year of prayerful discerning, and exploring the priesthood with the help of good priests, I entered college seminary in the Fall of 1977 - I was 23 years old. To 'fast forward' a bit, I was ordained to the priesthood on September 12, 1986 and am so grateful to have been serving the Lord as His priest now for 16 years!

Over the years, I've been involved in charismatic prayer groups, Cursillo, TEC, have served on a variety of retreats (Cursillos, charismatic retreats, silent directed retreats, and others). I'm a member of the Fraternity of Priests, Priests for Life, and have served on retreats for the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. In parish ministry and in serving as a spiritual director for others, it's been wonderful to see the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church, to know so many people serving the Lord and seeking to grow in holiness, even as we see our need for purification and unity.

As you read on in this newsletter, you'll catch more of the vision of how the 'wind' of the Spirit is moving still, allowing us to witness: "Jesus Christ has changed our lives!"


From the Diocese of Marquette Michigan, U.P. Catholic Charismatic Newsletter (August, 2003 )


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