Local Stephen's Ministry commissions new members

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A commissioning ceremony was held at St. Mary Church in Guttenberg on May 5 for new Stephen Minister Sharon Keehner (left) and Stephen Minister Leader Becky Shaffer. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

"The Stephen's Ministry principal belief is that we are the caregiver and God is the cure giver." 

Minister and clinical psychologist Rev. Kenneth C. Haugk founded the ministry in 1975. The organization is named for Saint Stephen, one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members of the community in the early Church. 

30 years of service

It was the late Pastor Harold McMillin who brought this model for caring to Guttenberg. For the past 30 years, community members from all walks of life, and a variety of faith beliefs, have answered the call to give compassionate, caring, one-on-one interaction to area residents that are facing adversity in their lives.  

Commissioning ceremony

A ceremony welcoming newly commissioned members Sharon Keehner, Stephen Minister; and Becky Shaffer, who will join Pastor Mike Ashman and M.J. Smith as a local Stephen Ministry Leader, was held at St. Mary Church in Guttenberg on May 5. 

A special thank you to St. Peter’s Garnavillo Stephen Leaders Joyce Schoulte and Nadyne Meier, who provided mentoring instruction.

Compassion, trust, respect

"As caregivers we meet individually with members of the community that are being challenged by a life changing event," shared M.J. Smith, a 30-year member. "Individual sessions are strictly confidential. We simply care and listen and provide those in need with compassion, trust, and respect.  We do not offer advice. With listening and caring, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our relationship to bring about positive change. Gradually, a 'new normal' evolves for the care receiver and the Stephen Minister simply accompanies the person through that process."


Interested candidates who wish to become a Stephen Minister meet weekly for six months for extensive training before they are able to meet with an individual one-on-one. Once a candidate completes the course they are encouraged to attend a monthly peer learning study group. Peer learning enables them to stay up-to-date on subject matter that will help them meet challenges that may arise during their Stephen Ministry work, and too keep them centered on the spiritual aspect of the program.

In addition to one-on-one meetings, the Stephen Ministry also reaches out to area residents with a series of booklets titled Coping with Grief.  The comforting series helps individual who are going through the first year of bereavement. The group also has a letter writing prison ministry, bringing the love of Christ to those who are incarcerated. 


The group welcomes referrals from the community, service providers or directly from individuals who feel a need for care and listening. To request a Stephen Minister or to make a confidential referral, contact St John’s at 252-2355, or one of the leaders.

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