Name: Father Gregory Steckel
Years ordained: 27
Current assignment: Sacred Heart parishes in Lost Nation and Oxford Junction and St. James Parish, Toronto
How did you know you were being called to priesthood?
I always wanted to be a priest, but wanted a variety of experiences in life. I attended Alleman High School in Rock Island, Ill., and experienced the Viatorian priests such as Father Daniel Mirabelli living a full, dedicated life. I admired the Davenport priests, such as Father (William) Digger Dawson who always spoke out about social justice issues. Father Jim Grubb was also an influence. During college, Father Hoffman at the Newman Center in DeKalb, Ill., carefully and confidently guided my investigation into priesthood.
After college, I took a night course on my own, Introduction to Philosophy and Theology, with Father Edmond Dunn at St. Ambrose College. I asked Bishop (Gerald) O’Keefe for permission to pursue seminary. He was most gracious and open to having me attend a semester of philosophy before studying at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. It was a great experience of woods and lakes and even a semester in the Holy Land. Of course I had a vocational crisis every semester and continued to work in city hall in Moline, Ill., for the first two summers of seminary. Father Denny Martin introduced me to rural ministry the next summer in Farmington, and I believed that cinched the deal.
Aside from your ordination Mass, what was your most memorable Mass?
When the archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, came to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth (where I was chaplain at the time) and confirmed a group of inmates. He began by stating that his father had been killed shortly before he was born. Yet, as a victim of crime the archbishop personally extended a vicarious pardon and forgiveness — God’s gracious mercy — to all the attending inmates. The Holy Spirit was undoubtedly present. Just as the archbishop was invoking the Holy Spirit, the sound system erupted in other-worldly brief static. Lives were changed.
What is most rewarding about being a priest?
When someone, including myself, has a complete change of heart. When the tensions, hatred and judgmental attitudes of the past give way to the present moment of grace. When hearts that are burdened with grief and sadness forget the trauma of the past. When someone accepts his or her dying experience and is fortified to go through that door into our continued existence. When children reveal the most apparent, obvious reality of our connectedness through love to Jesus and the Holy Spirit …
What is most challenging about being a priest?
We are expected to always be in control and not “lose it.”
What is your favorite Scripture passage?
The one where Jesus tells Peter to pay for the temple tax with two coins he will find in a fish.
What is your hobby?
Olivia, a small black female cat, and Lobo, an Elkhound … and gardening, especially roses.