“Saints in the Making” Interview: Mattie’s Guild & ADW

Directors from Mattie’s Guild – Jeni Stepanek, Jenn Lynn Kerwin, and Peg Kolm (L-R front row) with ADW Special Needs Disability Ministry Coordinator Rachel Chung who hosted an interview about the life and legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek for the Facebook series, “Saints in the Making.”

During November 2018, three directors from the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild were interviewed for the Facebook series, “Saints in the Making.” The segment was the second in the series, hosted by Rachel Chung, the Coordinator of Disability Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC Department of Special Needs Ministry.

Guild Directors Jenn Lynn Kerwin, Peg Kolm, and Jeni Stepanek gathered after Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Derwood, Maryland to share insights about Mattie’s life and legacy. The interview took place concurrent with the 40th anniversary of the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities.

The youngest of four children, Mattie was born with the same rare and fatal genetic neuromuscular disease that afflicted his siblings, and years later, his mother, Jeni. The condition — dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy — was discovered after all four of the children’s births and led to death during early childhood for the first three children. Despite medical predictions for his lifespan and abilities, Mattie lived almost 14 years and became a well-respected advocate and spokesperson for peace and disability organizations and a seven-time NY Times Bestselling author.

At age three, Mattie began composing poetry and passages he called Heartsongs. He ultimately published six volumes in his Heartongs poetry books series, as well as a collection of peace essays and passages entitled, Just Peace: A Message of Hope. He became a frequent guest on The Oprah Show, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and other shows, using the media opportunities as a platform for sharing messages of hope and peace, which he said were placed in his heart by God. He was an active parishioner and catechist at Holy Rosary Parish in Upper Marlboro before moving and becoming a member of St. Raphael’s in Montgomery County.

Through his writings and his strong faith, Mattie was an inspiration to young and old alike around the world. His time on earth was brief, but he lived with purpose and deep faith, and the impact of his witness and work continues today.  In 2002, he was honored with the Howard E. “Rocky” Stone Humanitarian Award. And in 2013, he was posthumously awarded the inaugural Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. 

During November 2018, his Cause of Canonization for possible sainthood was shared with a new website (www.Mattie4Sainthood.org) and through social media platforms. Mattie’s Guild and the Cause were initiated in 2012 by EWTN’s The World Over host, Raymond Arroyo.

Other “Saints in the Making” segments (so far) feature the Causes for Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz and Mary Virginia Merrick — both also faithful departed who lived and ministered in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

Click on the video below to learn more about Mattie’s cause for sainthood and how his message of peace speaks to youth and adults today.

Saints in the Making: Life & Legacy of Mattie Stepanek

Saints in the MakingThe second in our series Saints in the Making explores the life and legacy of Mattie Stepanek. Mattie was the youngest of four children all born with the genetic condition called Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. Mattie was an active parishioner at St. Francis in Derwood MD right here in the Archdiocese of Washington. At age three he composed a book of poetry entitled Heartsongs and went on to write 6 more books of poetry. Through his writings and his strong faith, Mattie was an inspiration to young and old alike. His time with us was a short 13 years but the impact continues today. This year, the cause of sainthood was initiated. Click on the video below to learn more about Mattie’s cause for sainthood and how his message of peace speaks to us today.To learn more about Mattie’s life and legacy, go to:http://www.mattieonline.comTo learn more about Mattie's cause for sainthood:http://mattie4sainthood.orgFollow the cause on Twitter:#Mattie4Sainthood#CanonizeMattie

Posted by Faith, Deafness and Disabilities: Archdiocese of Washington on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

 

 

 

 

Ninth Annual White Mass – A Celebration of Gifts

Msgr. Charles Pope sharing a heartfelt and inspirational homily on the importance of belonging and acceptance during the Ninth Annual White Maas in Washington, DC on October 28, 2018.

Hundreds of children, adults, family members, and community leaders and participants gathered on October 28 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew’ the Apostle in Washington, DC for the Ninth Annual White Mass. Celebrating the gifts of persons with disabilities and the Deaf community, the Mass has been growing in size across the years, with more and more people — both with and without disabilities — participating in both leadership and participatory roles.

Msgr. Charles Pope delivered the homily at Mass — transforming the concept of “special needs” into a recognition of “special gifts and talents.” He reminded the congregation of the importance of belonging, and the responsibility of acceptance — and encouraged everyone to open their eyes and see ourselves and our neighbors as God sees us — created with purpose and not measured by age or ability.

Many of those serving on the altar or sharing readings from the Lectionary or intercessory prayers were children and adults with disabilities who are parishioners in churches in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Jeni Stepanek, the mother of the late teen poet and peacemaker Mattie J.T. Stepanek, and a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi in Derwood, Maryland, was among those asked to read a petition during the prayers of the faithful.

Jeni Stepanek, mother of the late teen poet and peacemaker Mattie J.T. Stepanek, said it was an privilege to sharing petition for the Prayers of the Faithful, and an honor to be invited to share the petition remembering her son and others who have died but who continue to serve as role models of faith and service, especially for children and adults with disabilities.

“What a privilege to be able to participate so fully in this extraordinary celebration,” Stepanek said. “And what an honor to be offered the petition that invites prayers for those in special needs ministries and those served by special needs ministries who have died, but who are remembered as role models of purpose and God’s presence – including my own son.”

Stepanek added that the Mass occurred on a very special day – the Feast of St. Jude Thaddeus – patron saint of hopeless situations, and to whom Mattie had a special devotion. Born Matthew Joseph Stepanek in 1990, Mattie took “Jude Thaddeus” as his confirmation name in 1998, and “from that day forward,” his mom said, “he celebrated life and his shared ‘Heartsongs‘ messages of hope and peace with the name that he said brought together God’s purpose with his choices – Mattie J.T. Stepanek.”

During the homily, Msgr. Pope – who provided pastoral care to Jeni and to Mattie and his brother Jamie during the 1980s and 1990s – mentioned Mattie when sharing personal stories about local Catholics with disabilities who lived with purpose and who found God’s glory even amid suffering. Mattie, who died in 2004 just before his 14th birthday, served as a catechist in his home parish of Most Holy Rosary in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and was an inspirational speaker and bestseller author, who reminded people of all ages and abilities about celebrating our unique reason for being, and about the importance of not only including others – but of embracing others with God’s love, and celebrating them with hope and peace.

Msgr. Pope also mentioned that the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild was in the process of gathering information and support to explore and further Mattie’s possible Cause of Canonization in the Catholic Church. After the Mass, members of the Guild shared newly created cards with information about Mattie’s life and Cause and introducing the new Guild website, and with “Mattie’s Prayer” — created especially for children and families and teachers.

 

To view The Catholic Standard article about
the Ninth Annual White Mass – click here…

 

To view or listen to Msgr. Charles Pope’s homily
(recorded live for Facebook) – click here…

 

To view Mattie’s Prayer – click here… 

 

 

 

Mattie’s Guild – A Welcome Message

Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild:
A Message from the Directors

The Founder and Directors of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild are preparing a special welcome message as we launch this new website. Please check back soon, as we hope to have most of the pages ready for a full launch by November 1, 2018 — All Saints Day.

We encourage you to stay connected by checking the website regularly (Mattie4Sainthood.org) for new messages and monthly themes and activity suggestions, and by visiting our social media pages (Facebook – Mattie 4 Sainthood / Twitter – @Mattie4Saint).

Please feel free to ask questions and share thoughts and reflections by visiting our Contact page (here) or sending an e-mail to Mattie4Sainthood@gmail.com. 

Thank you.