Final conversion yields ordination, service within true Church

New Dcn. Steve Schmidt from St. Timothy Parish in Mesa was ordained Nov. 3 and will serve at his Holy Spirit Parish in Tempe. (Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)

From preaching on the front porch to at the pulpit, Dcn. Stephen Schmidt can see God’s hand in it all.

He was raised Baptist and even served as interim pastor of a charismatic storefront church, all while bearing a given name mirroring that of a canonized Catholic deacon — also the Church’s first martyr. Splits within the Church across centuries over Scripture interpretation and other turmoil ultimately brought his wife, Donna and then himself to Catholicism. Her father was brought up Catholic.

“Instead of the pastor being the focus, Jesus was still the focus,” Dcn. Schmidt said.

He ended up converting to Catholicism at a Mesa church named after the same Epistle writer whose verse earned him a Scripture memorization contest as a child: St. Timothy.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted lays hands on Stephen Schmidt, ordaining him to the permanent diaconate Nov. 3 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. (Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)

Two deacons, his wife, daughter Anna and some Rite of Christian Initiation sponsors encouraged him to discern the diaconate as soon as he was eligible. Deacon candidates in the Diocese of Phoenix must be Catholic for at least five years prior to submitting an application. Dcn. Schmidt was welcomed into the Church in 2007 and spent the last five years in diaconate formation.

“I found him to be a very bright man, a very humble man, a very eager-to-help man who knows his Scriptures,” Dcn. Abe Calderon from St. Timothy said four days before his own anniversary of ordination.

Those qualities inspired him to mention the diaconate to Dcn. Schmidt while he was still going through RCIA. The pair continued to work together in RCIA ministry and served at the altar during Dcn. Schmidt’s formation. The new deacon even researched and reminded the more established ones of some things. It was the software engineer in him.

Knowing Scripture was fairly easy, but passages like the Bread of Life Discourse had new meaning. A lot of those Scripture passages he memorized or referenced as a Protestant came back to him as ordination neared because they centered on grace. That gift was clear to Dcn. Schmidt during the laying on of hands at his ordination.

EN ESPAÑOL: Saluda al Diácono Stephen Schmidt

New Dcn. Stephen Schmidt processes from the church at the end of his Diaconal Ordination Mass Nov. 3 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

“There was something internally that happened. You could just feel the spirit, the grace of God,” he said. His wife described it as seeing heaven and earth in unity.

Dcn. Schmidt identified his main charism as being pastoral so he looks forward to going where he is called. That meant switching parishes to nearby Holy Spirit in Tempe where the need is greater. Dcn. Schmidt will be serving in ministry of care, infant baptism and RCIA.

“I love being a servant of the Lord however that looks,” Dcn. Schmidt said. He hopes the love and hope of Christ he brings to those in need allows them to encounter Christ in one another.

His wife is confident that can happen. The couple prays to St. Michael the Archangel each morning and Donna said her husband has a gift of gentleness and openness that allow people of all ages to be comfortable with him.