Reflecting on the path to priestly ministry in the Diocese of Evansville

By Deacon Stephen McGinnis

Special to The Message

Deacon Stephen McGinnis

One of the advantages of being a little bit older is that it is possible to look back on your life and see how the Lord has been moving you along what is often a very circuitous path.

That is the only way to explain it. It is the only way to explain how a man whose ancestors lived in the same small part of West Virginia for over 150 years will end up as a priest for the Diocese of Evansville.

The first time I was in this diocese was 35 years ago, almost to this day. It was 1988. I had just graduated from high school in Nebraska and was driving back with my grandparents to spend the summer in West Virginia. We were going to visit Notre Dame, where I would attend college, and my grandmother suggested we stop in Vincennes to see the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier. Little did I know….

In 1999, my dad was retiring as an Air Force physician, and he wanted to fulfill his dream of being a small-town country doctor. One of the hospitals that expressed interest was Saint Mary in Evansville. They had an opening for a physician at their clinic in Rockport, in Spencer County. He visited and loved the town. While I knew I would be visiting for the holidays, at that time I had no idea it would become my home.

As I write this, it is the anniversary of my ordination as a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, back in 2007. I thought I had my ministry as a deacon and as a priest all planned out. Then, through life, illness, traumatic injury and death in my family, I ended up moving to Rockport. 

There was a painter on PBS, back in the 90’s, who became famous. His name was Bob Ross. He would paint outdoor scenes from memory; and if something didn’t quite go as he planned, he called it a “happy little accident.” Looking back on my life, at all the twists and turns, at all the things that seemed to have been major disasters at the time, I now see how all of this helped not just bring me to priestly ordination for the Diocese of Evansville, but also prepare me to serve the people of the diocese. 

The Lord truly works in mysterious ways.