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Deacon Bill Steltemeier – A Death In The Family


 

I’m sad.

Yesterday, I learned of the death of EWTN’s Deacon Bill Steltemeier and it hit me hard. Although I’ve never met the man, I feel as I’ve lost a member of my family. And as I’ve thought about it over the past 24 hours, I realize that I DID lose a member of my family. While Deacon Bill was certainly a family member, as we are brothers in Christ, our relationship is even more personal. He is a member of my EWTN family and, along with Mother Angelica and many other EWTN friends, that makes us very close.

Words cannot describe my gratitude to Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill. I was a lukewarm, lazy, self-centered Catholic for most of my life. Even though I went to Mass each week, I had no real faith and no personal relationship with the Lord. None! Although I had “on and off” conversions through the years, nothing ever lasted. I’d be somewhat zealous about my Catholic faith for a time, but eventually I’d backslide. In late 2004, I experienced some strange medical symptoms that caused me to think I was dying. Realizing that I was not ready to meet the Lord, I made the decision to embrace my faith. I stopped caring about all of the “important” things that preoccupied so much of my time and I started watching EWTN TV and listening to their radio programs. I started going to daily Mass (even though I felt horrible) and I listened to EWTN radio as I drove to and from the church. I somehow managed to go to work during this ordeal and EWTN radio was a regular part of that trip as well. In addition to finally starting to embrace my faith, I began to feel a family association with everyone at EWTN. I remember being comforted by Mother’s words and by Deacon Bill’s warm and loving personality. Eventually, my symptoms vanished and no diagnosis was ever made. But, as far as my faith goes, I never looked back. EWTN changed my life forever!

Last night, I told my wife that I was sad about Deacon Bill’s death and had to write something. This morning, the ideas started to come to me. Quite simply, his death has left a void in my life. I’ll miss his kind (but strong) spiritual advice, his loving praise for Mother Angelica (another family member of mine) and the way he always reminded us that we were “family”. Although I’m happy that his suffering is over, I’m sad for myself and all those who are grieving his passing. Rather than dwell on sadness, however, I’d rather focus on my admiration for the way he chose to live his life. Just like the Apostles, Deacon Bill left everything behind all followed the Lord. After meeting Mother Angelica in 1978, he began helping out at EWTN on a part time basis. In 1985, he resigned from his law firm to work full time with Mother Angelica at the network. He remained devoted to the mission of EWTN until his death.

Every day, I fail in some way to do what the Lord asks. I don’t trust in His providence, I get annoyed with people, I have a negative outlook, I doubt that He can perform miracles in my life. When I look at Deacon Bill, I not only admire Him, but I want to be like him. I want to trust when all seems hopeless, I want to be kind to everyone I meet, I want to love the Lord so much that I’d be willing to leave everything for Him. And I know that if I could meet Deacon Bill, he’d want me to do that too.

Goodbye for now, Deacon Bill. Thank you for all that you did to help me and so many others, through EWTN. Please pray for me, a weak sinner, that I may be able to imitate you and courageously follow the Lord even when it requires great sacrifice.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

6 Comments

  1. Robyn says:

    Gary, what a beautiful tribute to a truly humble and holy man..and I agree.. Those of us who watch EWTN, especially from the early days on forward do feel like we have a family connection all of them besides our connection through Christ.. Those who run and ran EWTN made sure of that.. They want and wanted all of us to feel loved by Jesus and them and it’s been a success.. I feel a sense of loss as well.. Deacon Bill was such a wonderful witness and example.. His passing Im sure leaved everyone with a sense of loss but I thank God that Deacons suffering is over and pray that he has entered into his eternal reward completely bypassing purgatory.. Thanks for writing this Gary, I think it expresses what a lot of people are feeling..

    God bless you and keep you,
    Robyn

    1. Gary Zimak says:

      Thanks, Robyn. It was something I just HAD to write!

      God Bless,
      Gary

  2. vince says:

    Gary — thank you for your lovely tribute to Deacon Bill. I feel exactly as you do about this remarkable example of how Catholic men should live their lives. I was fortunate enough to have met Deacon Bill. Back in 1997, at a particularly difficult time in my life, I decided to hop on a plane and go down to EWTN. Back in those days, it was pretty laid back at the studios in Irondale. I drove on campus and just kind of hung out for 3-4 days. Because I am in the communications business, i was very familiar with TV studios and television programming. While it was amazing to meet Mother Angelica and everyone at the network who allowed me tremendous access to their world, i was most touched by the couple of hours I spent alone with Deacon Bill. I was amazed at the amount of time he spent with me and how he listened and shared his life story, thoughts and suggestions to help me. And I can remember to this day, the feel of his hands atop my head, and the blessing he gave me at the end our our time together. I was moved beyond description. This holy man changed my life by deepening my faith — and by challenging me to live a holy life as a husband, father and as a man. God bless Deacon Bill. I loved this man. He was truly a man of God and I was blessed to know him personally and like you as a member of the EWTN family.

    1. Gary Zimak says:

      Thanks for the comment, Vince. Your story confirms what many of us have come to believe about Deacon Bill…that his holiness and dedication were absolutely genuine and when he called us “family”, he really meant it. Thank you for sharing!

      God Bless,
      Gary

  3. Dawn says:

    RIP, Deacon Bill. We would not be the faithful Catholics we are today without the work and tireless witness of he and Mother Angelica. Only God knows all the souls they have touched to really live and love the faith. They are extraordinary, and EWTN truly is family to me!

    -Dawn

  4. blas cavada says:

    I have never heard or meet this man, Deacon Bill, but, reading one story after another give me some authentic evidence of a man crazy in love with Jesus, our Lord and our God. It is truly right to say that when a man is crazy in love with God, he thinks, speak, and act almost like Jesus … you can feel what he thinks and say, and when he touches your head you are drained of your troubled self and become really a new man. Bill, because of his great love for God, he becomes like Christ himself… he attracts people, he even attracts me, in his death.

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