Abilene Couple’s Son newest Carmelite Hermit in San Angelo Diocese
Editor’s Note: The following article originally was published in the West Texas Angelus, the newspaper of the Diocese of San Angelo. It is reprinted here with permission.
By BRIAN BODIFORD
Director of Communications, Diocese of San Angelo
The Carmelite hermits gained a new member when Brother Augustine Mary of the Mother of God made his solemn profession of vows Oct. 1 at Mt. Carmel Hermitage in Christoval. The Mass was not open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Brother Augustine Mary was joined by his brothers from the hermitage, his family, and several priests of the diocese during the Mass presided by Bishop Michael Sis.
Brother Augustine Mary is the son of Deacon Ron and Wendy Stegenga of Sacred Heart Parish in Abilene. The Stegengas came to Abilene from Minnesota around 10 years ago, and after visiting all four Catholic churches in town, decided on a new parish to call home.
“When I got to Sacred Heart, I knew that was the church we were supposed to be at,” recalled Wendy.
Within two years, the couple’s adult children had all moved to Abilene as well.
“He’s always been God’s child,” Wendy said. “We are honored and blessed to take care of [God’s] children.”
In reference to his son’s solemn profession of vows, Deacon Ron Stegenga was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know if there are any words that can describe how blessed we are,” he said, adding that the entire diocese is blessed to have the community of Carmelite hermits, which he called “a pillar in our diocese.”
Though the Stegengas had no clear indication that one of their sons would one day give his life in service of God as a religious brother, they did ensure that their children were in the care of the Lord.
“We always prayed and consecrated our kids to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Wendy said. “That’s probably had a greater effect on our family than anything else we’ve done,” added Deacon Ron.
Like his father, Brother Augustine Mary found it difficult to describe the emotions of the day.
“It’s a hard feeling to express,” he said. “If I had to express it, it would be a great, profound sense of peace that I am doing God’s will” in giving himself to “a beautiful vocation.”
Brother Augustine Mary first began to realize he was being called down this path about six and a half years ago.
“I kind of felt a calling from God about becoming a monk, and I didn’t really know how that was going to be fulfilled,” he said. The next step toward that fulfillment came during a visit by Carmelite Father Fabian Rosette and Brother Martin Mary Hubbs to Sacred Heart Church. Since Msgr. Bob Bush, the pastor at the time, was sick, Brother Martin took over preaching duties during the visit. It was then that Brother Augustine Mary truly began his process of discernment.
During Brother Augustine’s initial visit to Mt. Carmel Hermitage, he found that “it touched my heart very deeply.” He decided being a Carmelite monk was truly what he was being called to do with his life.
Father Fabian Rosette, prior of Mt. Carmel Hermitage, has the responsibility of selecting religious names for the new brothers brought in under his supervision. “God inspires me,” he said. For the newest member, Father Rosette “kept looking and praying” before coming to the conclusion that “there is only one saint for him: St. Augustine.”
His fellow Carmelite brothers are happy for their newest member. “We are very blessed to have him,” said Brother John David. “It is somebody that God sent to us and it’s a gift. Like a baby brother,” he added with a smile, “A newborn brother.”
Brother John David continued, speaking for the community. “We admire his courage, commitment, and also how cheerful he is,” he said. “He shares that with our community.”
Brother Martin Mary, whose preaching helped to bring about Brother Augustine’s discernment, referred to him as “the life of the party.” Brother Martin knew that the Mass was the culmination of a lifetime of preparation. “The effort he’s put in in the years leading up to today … this is a manifestation of that,” he said.
Brother Augustine Mary of the Mother of God joins the five other Carmelite Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in monastic life in the idyllic Mt. Carmel Hermitage in Christoval.