|Deacon Daniel Steiner is pictured at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, where he will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Nashville on Friday, June 3, along with Deacon Rodolfo Rivera. Photos by Theresa Laurence|
Deacon Daniel Steiner grew up in a large Catholic family in Peoria, Illinois, one of seven children; he’s now an uncle to 13 nieces and nephews. “The greatest gift our parents gave us was the gift of faith,” he said.
As he prepares for his priestly ordination for the Diocese of Nashville on June 3, Deacon Steiner is looking forward to joining other people’s families on their journey of faith. “It’s such a blessing the way a priest can enter into that,” he said. “I’m ready to be in the trenches.”
Like Deacon Steiner, Deacon Rodolfo Rivera, who will also be ordained a priest on June 3, is looking forward to serving as shepherd of a parish family. Over the years, he has grown especially close to the people of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the first church where he felt a true connection to a faith community. “Our Lady of Guadalupe is like a family,” he said. “Here is my home parish. The people know me, they trust me and have confidence in me,” he said. “That is from the grace of God.”
Answering the Lord’s call
Deacon Steiner, who just graduated with a master’s of divinity degree from Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, came to the Nashville Diocese two years ago after starting his studies and formation for the Diocese of Peoria in his native Illinois.
|Deacon Rivera is pictued at his home parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe.|
While Deacon Steiner felt a call to the priesthood when he was younger, he pushed it to the back of his mind for years. His family bought a Subway restaurant in his hometown and he started working there as a teenager. He and his older brother, Michael, managed it for the next decade and had plans to open their own restaurant.
After making a medical mission trip to Haiti, thoughts of the priesthood started to resurface, said Deacon Steiner (no relation to Cathedral of the Incarnation pastor Father Ed Steiner). “That made me want to get more involved with my faith,” Deacon Steiner said of the first of his five trips to Haiti. It also made him pause and think more deeply about his calling in life. “I had never asked the Lord what he wanted me to do.”
As he began to take his faith more seriously, going on retreats, and receiving important vocational encouragement from his brother, he decided to return to school and became a seminarian for his home Diocese of Peoria.
“School was never my top thing,” Deacon Steiner said with a laugh. The fact that he was able to successfully make the leap from the food service industry to the intense study of philosophy and theology, “is a testament to the grace of God,” Deacon Steiner said.
While he was a seminarian studying at Mount St. Mary’s, Deacon Steiner met another seminarian and priest with connections to the Diocese of Nashville and, after meeting with Bishop David Choby, decided to transfer to this diocese.
Like many seminarians who have migrated to the Diocese of Nashville in recent years, Deacon Steiner says Bishop Choby stands apart from other bishops in his personal attention to his seminarians. “He’s a true spiritual father and shepherd,” said Deacon Steiner. “He will always answer a call, and that’s how he shows his care and concern for all of us. … There’s not many seminarians in other dioceses who can say the same.”
After transferring to the Diocese of Nashville, Deacon Steiner’s home base became St. Christopher Church in Dickson, where Father Mathew Perumpally is pastor. “Father Matthew has been a great mentor,” Deacon Steiner said. Father Matthew will vest Deacon Steiner at his ordination ceremony, and Deacon Steiner will celebrate his first Masses as a priest at St. Christopher.
Deacon Steiner said he looks forward to celebrating the sacraments with parish families, wherever he is assigned. “It’s a privilege to be part of that journey with others on the path to holiness,” he said.
‘Grateful for this gift’
Deacon Rodolfo Rivera was raised in a close-knit family in Mexico, but when he was growing up, they were only loosely practicing Catholics, and not very involved with their local parish.
“I became a practicing Catholic as a teenager, after attending a youth retreat that I did not want to attend,” Deacon Rivera said. “It was in that retreat where God touched my heart and assured me that He would always be with me; it was a turning point for my spiritual life.”
When he joined other family members in Nashville about a decade ago, Deacon Rivera began attending Our Lady of Guadalupe, and for the first time, found a true parish home. Parishioners have rallied around him during difficult times in his life, like when he was in a car accident, and when his mother was dying last year. “People opened their hearts to me,” he said, visiting him and his family and offering help.
Because the people of the parish have confidence in him, “I want to be a good, holy example for the people,” Deacon Rivera said.
Deacon Rivera just graduated from Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, and is dividing his time before his ordination between Nashville and San Antonio, attending the ordination of friends and going on retreat. Even though his official seminary studies are complete, Deacon Rivera wants to continue to improve his English language skills and possibly prepare to be a spiritual director to parishioners. “That is how I would like to lead people,” he said. “People really need somebody to listen to them.”
Deacon Rivera feels like he has found a true home in Nashville. Attending the seminary with men from many dioceses and ethnic backgrounds, “I’m always proud to be part of this diocese,” he said. Bishop Choby would visit the seminary twice a year, Deacon Rivera said. “He always takes care of his seminarians.”
As his priestly ordination approaches, Deacon Rivera said, “I am grateful to God for this beautiful gift to be with the people, to respond to their needs and the diocese’s needs.”
Deacons Steiner and Rivera have not received their first assignments from Bishop Choby yet, but they have scheduled their first Masses. Deacon Steiner will celebrate the 8:30 a.m. Mass on Saturday, June 4, at St. Christopher in Dickson, and the 11 a.m. Mass Sunday, June 5, also at St. Christopher.
Deacon Rivera will celebrate the 6 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Saturday, June 4, with a reception to follow at the parish center.