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Father Len Stegman — Serving God, his country, friends and ‘family’ worldwide

By Patsy Pelton
Today's Catholic

During the homily, Msgr. James Sanner asked all priests to hold out their hands while he read a litany of what these sacred hands do — serving God’s people. Bishop Flanagan listens along with Father Lenny.
Carlos Perez | Special to Today’s Catholic

    SAN ANTONIO • When Dan Perry welcomed everyone to the Mass on June 3 at St. Mark the Evangelist Church to celebrate the 90 years of life that God has granted Father Leonard F. Stegman, he talked about a song that is sung at Worldwide Marriage Encounter events. The lyrics belong to a tune from the ’70s, but the words Perry pointed out, aptly describe why everyone had gathered there that day: “If Father Len ‘will hold our hand, ... we know we’ll never find another one like you!’” Perry and his wife Irene are former coordinators for the Worldwide Marriage Encounter community in the archdiocese.

    The celebration of the liturgy, followed by an elegant dinner reception, simply flowed with the love given and received by Father Len over the past 64 years of his priesthood. Homilist Msgr. James E. Sanner shared that Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. It was I who chose you to go and bear good fruit.” Msgr. James affirmed, “Father Len is a good shepherd and the love of the groups who are here today show that he does bear good fruit.”
After the Prayers of the Faithful, groups brought forward different symbols of their affiliation with Father Len. For example, Bill and Pamela Watson brought forward photos of Father Len’s parents as a sign of love of families.

    Father Len is one of 18 children of his beloved parents, Alex and Frances Stegman. His brother Harvey traveled to San Antonio from Colorado to be a part of the joyous day’s events.

    Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Flanagan offered his thoughts toward the end of Mass. “We thank God for your saying ‘yes’ to God’s calling 64 years ago. We appreciate your friendship, and I want to say thank you my brother priest, my friend Lenny Stegman, for all the support you have given me since you came to the archdiocese almost 20 years ago.”

    When Father Len arrived in the archdiocese in 1988, his list of service to God, country and God’s people already filled pages. During his military career as an Army chaplain from 1948 to 1977, he was in combat in Korea and Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver Star twice for gallantry in action, one of the nation’s highest awards. He also earned the Legion of Merit twice, the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal, as well as a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. Attaining the rank of colonel, he served in Germany, was Third Army, FORSCOM and AMC chaplain in the United States, including being in charge of all 450 Army chaplains in Vietnam.

    After his military retirement, Father Len became very involved in the Worldwide Marriage Encounter program, conducting Marriage Encounter weekends throughout the country, Europe and Iceland. In 2003 he was selected to Section 10 leadership and continues his active involvement in the program in the San Antonio Archdiocese. Father Len also has served as chaplain for several veterans’ organizations, including two terms as national president of the U.S. Military Chaplains Association and state chaplain for the Catholic War Veterans and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

    Father Len’s ability to speak Korean fluently brought him to the heart of the Korean community in San Antonio. He joined with Father James Golasinski as a spiritual director for the Korean community and worked with then-Archbishop Patrick F. Flores to bring a Korean priest to serve the new Korean parish in San Antonio.

    Father Len asked his friend, Msgr. Sanner to be his homilist, as he had for his 50th and 60th priestly jubilees because he told Msgr. Sanner, “You can keep it brief!” So as Msgr. Sanner talked about his golfing buddy, he said, “God made you wonderful, Len, and for that we are glad!” Close to 300 friends and brother priests in attendance couldn’t have said it better.


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