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Xavier Magazine | August 17, 2017

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Alumni Profile: Spiritual Advisor

Alumni Profile: Spiritual  Advisor
By Mike Rutledge

ROBERT W. STEPHAN, S.J.
Honors Bachelor of Arts in history, 1995
Campus Minister for Liturgy, Seattle University
Seattle, Wash.

Flagged by God | Stephan pulled into town to start work on a law degree at the University of California at Berkeley on a Sunday. He wanted to attend Mass, but what church? He saw a sign for the Holy Spirit Parish’s Newman Center. But where to park on these streets, with his possessions in his car? He saw a man who flagged him into a parking lot.

Uncanny Connections | Then during Mass, Stephan was surprised to hear the priest, Al Moser, mention having lunch with his sister on Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Moser, like Stephan, had attended Covington Latin and Xavier decades earlier. The coincidences were too much.

A Real Resolution | Stephan says he “resolved that first day: I’m going to do the first campus ministry event at the Newman Center, which really wouldn’t have been my thing. But because of that, I’m like, ‘OK, God, you’ve got my attention. I’m going to try something here.’” The event was a meet-and-greet introduction to small faith-sharing groups that convened the entire semester. It was one of the pulls he felt that led him toward the priesthood.

Xavier Connections | The oldest of five, Stephan attended Covington Latin and Xavier and was baptized at Bellarmine Chapel. The seed for the priesthood was planted when he took history courses from John LaRocca, S.J.

Early History | But history was his first passion, and he continued his studies in Austria and earned his master’s in history at UCLA in 1998. He later went to law school at Berkeley, graduating in 2002, before finally succumbing to the pull of those signs that first day in Berkeley and joining the Jesuits. Stephan, now 42, was ordained in 2013.

Education is Key | In between, he earned master’s degrees in pastoral studies at Loyola University Chicago and divinity at Boston College. He also taught at a Catholic high school and at Loyola Marymount University, both in Los Angeles, and served as deacon at a parish in Brookline, Mass. He’s now in campus ministry at Seattle University.

Homeless Ministry | While in Chicago, he was captivated by the Ignatian Spirituality Project, a Jesuit ministry that offers retreats to the homeless. “We don’t think to bring the two together, but at the same time, who else might need that more? It can help be a foundation that those who are struggling with homelessness can build on for real transformation in their lives.” He continued his homeless ministry in Orange, Cal., where he worked with high-school students, young adults and homeless people.

Spiritual Advising | “A place I feel very called to or passionate about is the spirituality and work with the poor and people who are marginalized in particular. I think there’s something very powerful, very much in line with the Gospels and what Jesus calls us to do.”

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