'I never saw myself as a very holy guy'
And now Steve Meyer will be ordained as a deacon on May 20
Third in a series on the Bishop's Appeal
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|ASKING GOD'S BLESSING: Michelle and Steve Meyer pray before dinner with their three boys (clockwise from top) Adam, Jacob and Alex. The Meyers are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay. Steve is preparing to be ordained a deacon in May. (Josh Diedrich photo)
Five years ago, Steve Meyer never would have imagined that he would appear in a feature on the diaconate in a Bishop's Appeal video, as he did this year.
Meyer, a member St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay, thought there was a particular image a deacon should fit, and he didn't see himself in that image.
"I struggled because that wasn't me," he said. "I never saw myself as a very holy guy."
On May 20, Meyer and six other men are scheduled to be ordained deacons for the Diocese of Green Bay. There are 129 deacons serving in the diocese and 25 men in formation, 20 candidates and five aspirants. They come from different backgrounds, but all have one common
characteristic, said Dcn. Paul Grimm, diocesan director of the permanent diaconate.
"The guys we look for all have a commitment to service to others," he said. "They have a history of serving others in a variety of ways and a desire to serve others."
Men who are residents of the diocese and between the ages of 30 and 55 may apply to become a deacon. Applicants must be recommended by their pastor or parish director, and have the support of the parish community. Upon acceptance into the program, an applicant completes a year of aspirancy before a determination is made to move on to the candidacy stage. The candidate then completes four years of formation taking courses in scripture, theology, liturgy, pastoral care, canon law and homiletics.
"Most people in our diocese don't realize that the formation program is for college credit," said Meyer, who is president and executive creative director for the Karma Group Inc. in Green Bay. "These are collegiate courses. You have to read a lot. You have to
study. You have to write papers and take tests. When you are working full-time, involved in your parish and other ministries, raising a family, trying to find time to spend with your kids, it's tough. It's a lot of work."
Although he initially resisted, Meyer, who is married and has three sons, formally responded to the call to the diaconate in 2001.
"In retrospect, I always felt there was something else I should be doing, though I had no idea what it was," he said. "It's a lifelong journey because you bring your life experience to it. Your whole life experience shapes you for it. There's no starting point."
"It wasn't something that I ran toward," he added. "It was something I ran from. I spent three years thinking maybe it was a passing notion that would go away, and I could get on
with my life. I realized that this isn't going away. It's something that is only growing in awareness and intensity, so you have to pay attention to it."
Deacons have a threefold ministry that includes service of the word, service of the liturgy, and service of charity, justice and pastoral outreach.
"You are a deacon 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Dcn. Grimm. "You're a deacon at your job and with your family. You are representing the church and representing Christ in
reaching out to others."
"One of the best understandings that I finally sank my teeth into is the deacon's role to bring the street to the church and bring the church to the street," said Meyer. "I relate to that, I really do. I don't see myself at all as a mainstream Catholic. I see myself as a kind of a fringe guy. I identify with the people on the margins. I can take the church to the street. I can bring the street to the church."
Meyer serves those in need through his ministry with Street Lights Outreach and COTS, a homeless shelter housed at St. John the Evangelist Parish in downtown Green Bay. Street Lights Outreach grew out of a challenge from Dcn. Grimm.
"He said to me, 'Steve, you spend all your time with people just like yourself, You need to do more social outreach to people who aren't like you,'" said Meyer.
"It's important for deacons to expand their experiences by not just serving those who come to us, but those people on the margins," said Dcn. Grimm. "We need to reach out to not only people of the church, but people of the world."
Due to Meyer's busy schedule, he needed to find a ministry that he could do after 10 p.m. During a discussion with Tony Pichler, diocesan director for Parish Ministers, he developed the idea for Street Light Outreach.
"I said, 'Maybe I will take a lawn chair and sit on the corner and talk to people where they are,'" said Meyer. "Tony said if I did it, he would join me. I told him I'm going to do it tomorrow night, so we started doing it. We looked like tailgaters."
Meyer and Pichler, friends from their days at Marshfield Columbus High School, began talking to people on the streets weekly on either Friday or Saturday nights.
"It is ministry in its purest form," said Meyer. "It is the church without walls; no walls, no glass, no barriers, just humans connecting with each other."
"There are a lot of good stories," he added. "There was a homeless guy named Rooster. We had some nice conversations with Rooster. The last time I saw him, he died a while later, he gave me a big hug and said, 'I love you Steve.' I said, 'I love you, too, Rooster.' He replied by saying, 'Thank you for giving me someone to love.' That moved me because I realized that we treat the marginalized in our culture functionally. We think about whether they have enough to eat and have something to wear. Hopefully, we can help put a roof over their heads. We think that's our obligation. It is very important, but we do as much for our dogs, don't we? We don't look into their eyes and see their souls."
"It has been really meaningful for me," he continued. "It's bringing the humanity and love of the church to the street and touching people's lives. And it's bringing that understanding and reality back to the church."
Meyer said that he views ordination to the diaconate as more of a beginning than a completion of a process. He hopes to expand his ministry, while continuing his current outreach.
"The diaconate is a transformation program and you grow, but you don't stop being yourself," he said. "I may not fit that mold of what I thought a deacon should be, but this
is who I am and I shouldn't change. I had to learn and accept that God calls us to be the people he created us to be. That's who I am and maybe that's why I relate to people."