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.