Mattie J.T. Stepanek was on earth fewer than 14 years and he died nearly 15 years ago. But his life and legacy continue to inspire children and adults today because he lived with depth and purpose, and with a passion for sharing messages of hope and peace.
During January, Mattie was remembered in The Parish Times newspaper in an article reminding readers that Mattie’s presence on earth was a blessing, despite dismal pre-natal prognoses for his health and developmental outcomes and recommendations that the pregnancy be terminated.
Mattie’s mother, Dr. Jeni Stepanek, said that Mattie was neither an accident nor a mistake, but instead, “a spirit meant to be.”
Mattie did face many medical and developmental challenges during his brief life. However, he also penned seven New York Times bestselling books of “Heartsongs” poetry and “Just Peace” essays and he was a well-respected and award-winning spokesperson for disability and peace organizations. From the age of seven, he served as a lector in his home parish, and at age nine, he began teaching CCD classes.
Thousands of people of diverse faiths and nationalities and walks of life attended his funeral, where Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter eulogized him as “the most extraordinary person” he has ever known. The article in the recent Parish Times edition refers to Mattie as someone who reminds us of the truth that all life is worthy.