Following the call: Father James Steffes transferring to Rochester parish

Published 6:22 pm Thursday, June 15, 2023

By Amanda McKnight

After serving the St. Augustine and St. Edward parishes for 12 years, Father James Steffes has been called to a new adventure to serve at Resurrection Church in Rochester beginning July 1.

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“I’m called by God ultimately, but also by my Bishop,” Steffes said. “When he calls me to go some place, that’s where I go.”

Steffes has been a priest for 30 years, so being called to serve at a new parish is nothing new to him. He had been working with a parish in Winona before transferring to Austin in 2011.

While saying goodbye will be difficult, he trusts that he’s following God’s plan for his life.

“It’s difficult to say goodbye here. I’ve been very engaged here and blessed by people I’ve met, but I’m excited about a new adventure and I believe it’s ultimately God that’s calling me to this,” he said. “I look forward to the new ways that He will bless me and help me to grow and touch people’s lives.”

During his time in Austin, Steffes has had the opportunity to serve as pastor for Pacelli High School as well as his home church. Though he isn’t a classroom teacher, he believes that priests are, by nature, always teaching in some way.

One of his biggest jobs is to lead and shepherd his parishioners. But with any job, there’s an administrative side of the coin.

“What’s most important is always the faith life and spiritual life, but also in reality we run a business where there’s personnel and budgets and insurance,” Steffes explained. “The three main tasks of a priest are sanctifying, teaching and governing. All of that is part of bringing Christ to people’s lives.”

Steffes considers his entire time in Austin to have been a blessing, but it hasn’t all been easy. The covid lockdown was a challenge for everyone, particularly those whose jobs rely on building relationships with people.

“It was, for all of us, an adventure,” he said. “It was something that none of us knew how to navigate through, so we did the best we could.”

Throughout the lockdown period, Steffes said he always left the church unlocked so people could at least seek solace there and have a space to pray and be in God’s presence.

“We all needed hope during those days,” he said. “I believe thoroughly that God is the source of all of our hope, so keeping people connected with God was so important.”

Steffes still took the opportunity to meet with people, albeit with six feet of distance or outdoors. He also recorded and livestreamed mass, but it didn’t have the same effect as an in-person service, he said.

“We did the best we could,” he said. “And as soon as we could celebrate mass again, we did.”

Looking to the future, Steffes said he feels excitement, though he will miss the parish he’s grown so close to over the last decade-plus.

His last day in Austin is June 30, and between now and then his schedule is filled with meals with parishioners to say goodbye, daily mass and having post-mass receptions during his last weekend preaching in town.

“I think saying goodbye is the most difficult thing, but God graces me. I go with God’s grace and I trust He’ll give me everything I need,” he said. “This is God’s plan, and I gave my life to the Lord 30 years ago so I go with that.”