St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church
Bio - Fr. Stephen E. Austin
I appreciate this opportunity to share with you a little information about myself. I am a native Oklahoman, born and raised in Guthrie. My Father and Mother have both entered eternal life. There are five children in our family. The firstborn is my sister Joan, who was married for 54 years. She lives in Houston, TX, and has two adult children. Next is Barbara. She is a Benedictine Sister and lives in Tulsa at St. Joseph Monastery. My brother David is a retired Navy Commander. He retired again in 2016 from the Navy as a civilian worker at the Pentagon. He is married and has three children. My brother's second child Jeffrey was in a near-drowning accident at the age of three and, after an all too short life, now shares in the gift of eternal life in heaven. My youngest sister Jeanne was married and has two adult boys Stephen Matthew (Stephen - get it!) and Patrick. Jeanne passed to eternal life after a battle with cancer. Her husband Wayne and his new wife Sue are a blessing to our family and my current parish.
I attended St. Mary's Grade School through the 8th Grade and then went to public school. I followed in my Dad's footsteps and attended O.S.U. in Stillwater for three years. At O.S.U., I began to consider a vocation to the priesthood. I started the admission process to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City but backed out when Oklahoma Furniture Manufacturing Company offered me a full scholarship to North Carolina State in Raleigh, NC. I studied Furniture Engineering and Management while I was there. I learned a lot and even made the bedroom suite that I still use today, but God had other plans. I finished my undergraduate work at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. I received my Master's in Divinity from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN., in 1984.
My first assignment as an associate pastor was from 1984-to 1986 at St. Mary Church in Tulsa, a parish of 1500 families. Next, I was at St. John Church in Bartlesville from 1986 to 1989, a church of 750 families. Bishop Beltran assigned me to pastor St. Francis Xavier, Sallisaw, St. John the Evangelist, Cookson, Blessed Kateri, Roland, and St. Joseph, Webbers Falls in 1989. With four Churches, I drove an average of 35,000 miles a year (It was a blessing for me to be there!) From 1991 to 1997, I was assigned to St. John's in McAlester and St. Edward's in Pittsburg. I returned to Bartlesville as pastor of St. John's from 1997 to 2004. In July of 2004, I was offered a sabbatical which included a month in Mexico and nine months at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. At the end of my sabbatical, in May of 2005, I was assigned to the Church of the Resurrection. My current assignment is as pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church which began on July 01, 2015.
Fun things I like (or have wanted) to do: Bike ride (I rode in 10 Freewheel Bicycle Tours across Oklahoma starting in 1986), water ski, take pictures (I have two nationally published pictures - Want to see them?), I greatly enjoy the outdoors (I am an Eagle Scout) and reading or praying in my great-grandmother's rocking chair. Ping Pong is still fun. I am always up for a good visit with family, parishioners, or friends, especially if a cup of coffee is available.
Miscellaneous facts. As a part of my seminary studies, I spent five blessed months in the Holy Land (Glad to share pictures anytime). I have been Chaplain to the Scouts. I worked with Engaged Encounter for 7 years, a marriage preparation program. I have been on the Priest Senate of our Diocese. I am a Cursillista and have been a chaplain for Cursillo many wonderful times.
Throughout my life, God and Church have been important. One of my earliest memories is being in the front row at St. Mary's Church in Guthrie, OK, for Sunday Mass with my sister Barbara and singing off the green, worn Latin Mass Card. Benedictine spirituality has shaped my entire life; from the Sisters' presence at St. Mary's Church and their example and teaching at St. Mary's School through 8th Grade; trips out to "Big Red," the then Benedictine Mother House in Guthrie, to visits at St. Joseph's Monastery in Tulsa as my sister entered and continues to live her Monastic life. My seminary education at Conception Seminary in Conception, MO. to St. John's Seminary in Collegeville, MN. both Benedictine Schools, and my continued connection with the Sisters at St. Joseph's Monastery, especially their School of Lectio at the monastery, shape my spiritual life. If you would like to attend the School of Lectio, call me. The Benedictine motto "Ora et Labora" and the spirituality that lifts it up is at the heart of my call to pray and service to God and his people.
I would like to share with you my mission statement: "All I know is I was blind, and now I see." - John 9:25
I hope that this statement will give clarity of vision to my life and work as a child of God. I believe that Jesus reveals precisely what God wants me to be. So as I look to Jesus, I am challenged and called to see the full radiance of who I am. Openness to the life of Christ demands that I surrender to the divine will of God, which is the root and ground of my life. Matthew chapter five gives me guidance:
• Blessed are the poor in spirit. At the beginning of my life journey, my parents were open to God, and I was born into a faith-filled home. Now, I wish to open my life to the in-rushing of the Holy Spirit that I may daily know and do God's will.
• Blessed are the meek. That which God possesses in love cannot be destroyed. My happiness is rooted in the presence of God - in the World, Others, and Self. Knowing this, I wish to find goodness in all people and places. "To be happy where I am." In His mercy and love, it is God that calls me forward.
• Blessed are those who mourn. The world brings suffering and so mourning. Despite the tragedies that grieve me, I am rooted in a peaceful place. When I hurt or allow my emotions to overwhelm me, I will recall - "No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the rock I'm clinging . . ." When blessed with the opportunity, I will be present to those who suffer and mourn to share the gift of the Rock.
• Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right. God has blessed me with a good conscience. I want to follow God's path so that I may be an example to others. May I never settle for the status quo, for I am on a pilgrimage.
• Blessed are the merciful. I need to know that I am one with everyone and everything else in the cosmos to love mercy. Compassion, the suffering with another, is a behavioral and attitudinal value that will bring me into the presence of God here and now and in eternity.
• Blessed are the pure of heart. St. Augustine said, "God first and everything else for the sake of God" - That is my prayer and my call to prayer.
• Blessed are the peacemakers. The sign over my office door is "Peace." My priesthood is about being a maker of peace. I desire to create an environment in my person and in my work that is at the service of peace. A place where the compassion and nonviolence of God's mercy can flourish.
"You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but now I tell you, do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you." When I am challenged to stand confident and courageous in the face of violence or hate, may I proclaim my refusal to accept evil and its presuppositions, especially regarding the killing of killers and the belittling of immigrants, documented and undocumented. To live Matthew chapter five as a Statement of Mission, I pray for the conversion of heart and mind so that I may be salt and light. As I am doctored by the One God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I pray that I may be a doctor of the soul with and for others.