USA - Q&A with Fr. Steve


Fr. Steve gives a report during the General Chapter

Fr. Steve gives a report during the General Chapter

A time of transition

On May 26th a lot of things changed for Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ. He began the day as provincial superior of the US Province and ended it as a member of the General Council in Rome.

It meant not only a new job, but a new country and a new language. Within days of the chapter’s end Fr. Steve was taking his first Italian lessons.

A few weeks later Fr. Steve returned to the United States to take some vacation time with family, pack, and attend to the many details of moving to another country.

He also sat down for a little Q&A on his new role and ministry.

Fr. Steve meets Pope Francis

Fr. Steve meets Pope Francis

Was it hard to accept service on the general council?

“In religious life we talk a lot about having a spirit of oblation, of availability,” said Fr. Steve. “It is the nature of our vocation to always try to say ‘yes’ to the congregation and to the ‘church.’”

After the votes were counted Fr. Heiner Wilmer, the newly elected superior general, asked Fr. Steve if he would accept service on the General Council. In front of the chapter delegates and without hesitation Fr. Steve said “I accept with peace and joy.”

“And I really did feel a sense of peace and joy when I accepted the position,” he added. “I knew it would be difficult, I knew that I would face a lot of challenges, but I had no hesitation.”

“That said, there are still moments when I feel a bit of panic,” he continued, laughing. “I have moments of inspiration, moments of great joy in this service, but every once in awhile the practicalities set in.”


Fr. Steve preaches in Rome

What did it feel like to go through the election process,?

“The process was beautiful,” said Fr. Steve. “I felt the support of the others in the room. [General Chapter delegates] Standing together after the election, singing the Magnificat, it was a joyful experience. A good feeling of discernment done together.”

And then it was time for work! Fr. Heiner and his council were having their first meetings before the chapter ended. Much of their initial work was with the outgoing council; getting updates and background information on the many entities and sectors.

When the new administration gathers together again in September they will take several days for reflection and team-building.

“It will be a great way for us to get to know each other better,” said Fr. Steve. “We’ll learn about each other’s families, vocations, our interests and concerns.”

In November the council plans to go ESIC, the SCJs’ business and marketing school in Spain. As did the previous administration, they will spend a week taking workshops on leadership, planning and teamwork.

This preparatory work will give them the background and tools to aid them in developing a six-year plan for the congregation and to better define their individual tasks as councilors in addressing that plan.

The new General Council; Fr. Steve is on the left.

The new General Council; Fr. Steve is on the far right.

What are some of the challenges for the new General Council?

“Certainly there continues to be a need to find the best ways to guide newly developing entities with training and resources, helping them to create the structures needed so that they can thrive and grow,” said Fr. Steve. “But at the same time we need to care for and continue to energize our aging provinces.”

Much is changing in the Church and the congregation. “But out of change can come many creative ideas,” he said. “The sharing that has taken place between places like Brazil and Germany has been wonderful. It is a way to help the congregation thrive but also grow in diversity and new ways of thinking.”

Being a greater witness to the diversity of an international congregation is one of the joys that Fr. Steve anticipates in his new role.

“We are spread out in over 40 countries,” he said. “In the international meetings that I have already been a part of it has been wonderful to get know people from other cultures, to hear their stories and see things from a new perspective. I love the diversity of our congregation, I love experiencing cultures other than my own. This, I expect, will be one of the great joys for me of being on General Council.”

Receiving congrats (and a few laughs) from Fr. Ed Kilianski after the election

Receiving congrats (and a few laughs) from Fr. Ed Kilianski after the election

What will he miss?

“Obviously, the people,” said Fr. Steve. “I’ll miss my family, I’ll miss the community here in the United States. And while I love all of the little neighborhood shops in Rome, every now and then I know that I’ll yearn for a ‘big box’ store, someplace where I can take care of a lot of things at once.

“And, I’ll miss baseball, and talking to people who love baseball. If I want to watch a game I’ll probably have to get up at 2 a.m. Maybe I’ll start to follow soccer!”

Fr. Steve said that he will also miss serving the US Province as provincial superior. “I enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with people, to have good heart-to-heart conversations with members of the province. I was humbled by the depth of sharing that I experienced. People didn’t just talk about their difficulties, their problems. They shared their faith, their hopes. I was privileged to walk with people in the midst of challenges and in joy. I came to appreciate the wonderful work that is done in the province by our SCJs and those with whom we collaborate.”

Fr. Steve returns to Italy on July 29. After a short stop in Rome he will go to Bologna where he will spend the rest of the summer studying Italian. Fr. Heiner is already there working on his language skills; Fr. Carlos Enrique Caamaño Martín, also new to the council, arrives shortly after Fr. Steve. The next session of General Council meetings will be in September.