What's a Deacon? Louis Steffenhagen

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Deacon Louis

In our ongoing series spotlighting deacons across the diocese. To learn more about becoming a deacon, email us at abenoitjoseph@diopa.org.

I found it hard to put down into words about my life as a deacon. Not because of what I do. I found it hard to try and put the enthusiasm that I feel everyday into a short column as this. I wanted to make sure that the words jumped off the page to those who are contemplating or actively seeking to become a deacon.

Becoming a deacon really wasn’t my idea at the start. This was God’s plan all along, I am convinced of it. I am a late bloomer to The Episcopal Church; I was a late bloomer in coming to Christ. I came to Christ and The Episcopal Church on October 9, 2009. I always knew God was there, but I never really knew him. I had no personal connection or understood exactly who he was.

A voice on a Sunday morning sent me to Christ Episcopal Church in Pottstown. When I walked through those red doors and took Eucharist - which I had not done in a very, very long time - my life changed forever. Within a few months I went to Cursillo which only added to the enthusiasm. I was confirmed into the church nine months after I had walked through those doors. I was being fed spiritually and nurtured and given what I needed for those nine months.

I was on the mountain top telling everyone about this wonderful God and family of God that I had found. I was going to change the world. I was telling people whether they wanted to hear it or not. I eventually learned how to tell them without scaring them. LOL. So I joined the choir, joined the Property Committee, joined Vestry, and became a Eucharistic Minister.

In time though, the enthusiasm was being crushed by this powerful feeling that it was time to do more. It was time for me do something outside of my comfort zone, something other than what I was perceiving to be my mission. The walls of the Church seemed to just keep closing around me more and more. Like it was forcing me to stay in this place of comfort. Keeping me on the mountain top. My church Godmother Ginny Schlicter approached me one day and asked if I ever thought about being a deacon. She asked me this knowing that if it came about I would have to leave and *go somewhere else. She felt there was something special going on inside me. Well I looked into the program, went to a couple of fact finding sessions and started listening, really listening to what God was telling me to do. Once I found out about what all it entailed I was hooked. I could leap out into the world, loose the confinement of just the church alone. I would be working out into the world, WITH THE CHURCH, WITH THE BISHOP, WITH CLERGY. All sorts of opportunities would be open.

The process is not easy, that is true. There were some who thought I would not make it. (Until they really sat down with me and could see and feel the enthusiasm and dedication I had.) Working full time, going to school, CPE every weekend was going to be a challenge. I was determined that nothing would stop me. I loved working at the hospital, working with the marginalized, the sick the homeless etc. I can tell you that when I walk through the doors of those places or sit with those who may just need someone to listen to them. I am no longer me, but an extension of Christ’s love. I don’t remember who I am, but I know whose I am. Something happens when we do the work as Deacons. Not because it’s our job, but because it is our calling.  A calling reaffirmed every day by what we do and by God.

Currently I am the deacon at St. James Episcopal Church in Collegeville. Prior to the pandemic, I was a volunteer Chaplain at Bryn Mawr Re-hab and Phoenixville Hospital. Right now I can only go in when someone is actively dying. This will change very soon as I have had both my shots and I will be going for orientation in a few weeks for the new rules and protocol. I will begin the worship Service again at Bryn Mawr, and weekly patient visits at Phoenixville. I hope to return soon to the Good Samaritan Shelter as Chaplain/Spiritual Care. I have been working at St. Peters Food Pantry helping one of our deacons who could not be there due to health concerns. At St. James, I am the spiritual presence at the Outreach Center and greet the folks as they come in. I get their names and info and pray with them whenever they ask.  Yes, I still work full time.

Lastly let me say this: If you would have asked people 12 years ago who knew me if I would have become a deacon they would have laughed hysterically and said you were out of your mind for even thinking that could happen. None of them could have possibly imagined the power that was present and was about to change my life. They knew me, and I was not diaconate material (so they thought).

What happened to me back in 2009 was a miracle. A complete and total transformation from my former life. I know I am loved even in the most unloving of places. I know I am not alone even in the darkest of places. God has given me a mission to do. Even if at times the world turns a blind eye to what we do. I love being a deacon or as I sometimes think, a beacon. A beacon filled with the light of Christ.

We are called to be the beacon in the world that everyone is looking for, to be the hands and feet of Christ and do his work.




*Editor’s note: After becoming a deacon, you are assigned to a church.