Celebrating Mattie’s 15 Year Anniversary

Memorial Mass & Reception

The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild invites people of all faiths to join in a celebration of Mattie’s life and spiritual legacy as we commemorate the late poet and peacemaker’s 15 year anniversary.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, June 22 (11 am) at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (6701 Muncaster Mill Road, Derwood, MD 20855). Msgr. Charles Pope will be the homilist.

Immediately following the Mass, the Guild will host a reception. All are invited to attend, and meet the Guild directors and also share reflections of Mattie’s life and legacy, and how he continues to touch lives and our world.

During September 2019, Mattie’s Guild will also host a Mattie Symposium, with the 1st Annual Mattie Lecture, keynote speaker, VIP guests, and sessions for sharing and recording “Mattie Reflections” to support his Cause of Canonization (view information on sharing Statements of Support here…)

Matthew “Mattie” Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek was born on July 17, 1990, and died just weeks before his 14th birthday on June 22, 2004.

Mattie lived with a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease, and relied on a ventilator, oxygen, wheelchair, and numerous medicines and procedures for medical support. He spent much of his early and later life in intensive care units.

The condition also impacted his three siblings (Katie, Stevie, and Jamie — who died during early childhood) and later impacted his mother, Jeni (who did not know she carried the genetic condition until after giving birth to all four children). Jeni, who now also relies on a ventilator and wheelchair, carries on Mattie’s peace mission as a director for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild (#Mattie4Sainthood organization) and as the CEO of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation (#MakePeaceTheNews organization).

During his brief life, he penned seven New York Times bestselling books of Heartsongs poetry and Just Peace essays, and he share messages of hope for our world as a frequent guest on shows like Oprah, Good Morning America, and Larry King Live. He also served as an ambassador for peace and disability organizations, and as a lecture and CCD (Sunday School) teacher in his church parish.

He wanted to be remembered as “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.”

Mattie has been gone from this world longer than he was here, but the depth of his living and essence continues to be a powerful source of inspiration and hope for children and adults around the world. During May 2019, Chris Cuomo selected Mattie as his “Champion of Change” for CNN’s special feature by that name.

Mattie’s Guild exists to gather and organize information that may further Mattie’s Cause of Canonization (sainthood) in the Catholic Church. The directors believe that Mattie lived a lived a live exemplifying virtues — including faith, hope, love, and peace.

The Guild directors invite and encourage people of all faiths to share their “Mattie reflections” to support this effort and to celebrate the truth that “Mattie still matters” — because faith adn hope and love and peace will always matter.

Reflections can be personal stories and memories from Mattie’s time on earth. Or, they can be about how children and adults are just now learning about Mattie, and the difference his is making today.

The 15 year anniversary Mass and reception events are free.

All are welcome to attend.

View or download the Press Release PDF HERE… 

View or download the Press Release JPG HERE… 

#Mattie4Sainthood #PackTheChurch

Donations are encouraged
to support the Guild in their mission
of gathering and organizing information
for Mattie’s possible Cause of Canonization.

Click here to visit our Support page…

Click here to contact the Guild,
or to share your Mattie reflections…

Mattie Named CNN “Champion of Change”

Mattie Selected as “Champion of Change”
by Chris Cuomo for CNN Special 

CNN invited 12 correspondents to share a story on their “Champion of Change” – someone they have interviewed or reported on across their years of working in journalism.

Chris Cuomo (who won an Emmy for one of his Mattie features back in 2001, and who is a member of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild) selected Mattie J.T. Stepanek as his Champion.

Thank you, Chris, for choosing to #MakePeaceTheNews

Information from the CNN producer: 

  • CNN’s feature on Mattie Stepanek’s legacy is scheduled to air
    — Tuesday, May 14 in the 9pm hour, and
    — Thursday, May 16 in the 10pm hour — barring breaking news.

  • The Champions for Change one-hour special airs on Saturday, May 18 at 8pm. 
    The story producers are not told in advance if a particular piece will make it to the final show, since it’s considered a week-long event.

  • You can see the promo at the link below. 
    –> https://www.cnn.com/specials/living/champions-for-change
  • Mattie’s video story will be uploaded to that digital page once the show airs on the network.
  • Additional media – including more from Chris Cuomo and an essay penned by Jeni Stepanek (Mattie’s mom / Mama Peace) – will also be posted to the page once the video airs.


April 2019 Message from the Guild — Holy Week Reflections

April 2019 Reflection
Holy Week & Easter

“We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful.
And we must share our faithfulness with others.

                                                      Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Celebrating Holy Week with
“Ponder, Praise, and Prayer”
Meditations from Mattie

All through history, Catholics have approached Holy Week pondering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In 1998, in preparation for receiving his First Communion, 7-year-old Mattie Stepanek created a Lenten meditation booklet with daily Bible readings and personal responses. Titled “Ponder, Praise and Prayer,” the collection is a prayerful journey that begins on Ash Wednesday, continues through the Lenten season and Holy Week, and culminates on Easter Monday.

The Bible verses he selected were not the ones found in that year’s daily readings, but rather, Mattie’s own selections, including some that were his favorites, and others that he said spoke to his heart that season. The following year, Mattie, age 8, was preparing for Confirmation. Because of his disability, he was not expected to live long enough to be able to receive it as a teen. He approached Confirmation by editing his personal daily meditations in the Lenten booklet, and adding a “foreword and forthword” statement, and sharing the booklet with many members of his parish.

Each page of this Lenten collection includes a Bible verse on which to reflect and ponder, a meditative response of and for praise, and a poetic offering as Mattie reached out with purpose – or his “Heartsong.” Mattie, born in July of 1990, wrote some the poems included in this booklet when he was 3 years old, and others when he was 6,7 or 8 years of age.

In the days leading up to Holy Week, Mattie’s meditations are on prayer with responses including:

 “We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful. And we must share our faithfulness with others. Not in a way that is meant to show off, but in a way that is meant to inspire others to see the way of the Lord.” – Mattie

The next day, he continues…

 “Prayer comes in all forms, just as God, too, comes in all ways and forms and times. Be there waiting for God to enter your heart, and follow the message in life.” – Mattie

Just before Palm Sunday, Mattie pondered the meaning of death of Jesus, and also the deaths of his siblings. He prefaces his meditation with this passage from the Old Testament:

 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” – Psalm 56:3.

He then writes:

It is always sad when someone dies. And it is especially sad when a little child or a baby dies. But we can’t be angry. We can be hurt, and confused, but not so angry that we turn away from God. There is a reason for everything. We don’t know the reasons, but we can find meaning, if we pray, and trust in God.” – Mattie

As a preschooler, Mattie experienced the loss of his brother, Jamie, and deeply felt and grieved that loss. His two other siblings, Katie and Stevie, died before he was born, and those losses, too, pained him – a yearning for the family he had never met. And, around the time he was creating this booklet, a dear family friend had just lost her baby.  So, death, especially of children, was very painful and real to him.

On Palm Sunday, Mattie places his sadness about all these losses in God’s hands:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power
and of love and of a sound mind.”– 2 Timothy 1:7

Then on Monday of Holy Week he ponders the Eucharist, again remembering his brother Jamie, with this meditation and a poem about Communion:

“Our bodies get hungry for food. Our memories get lonely for those who have gone away from our sight and homes. But it is our spirit that needs to be fed with Jesus. It is not a trick. It is not just words. It is not a symbol. It is real life. And through Jesus and the church, we will always be with what we need and we will always see those we love again.” – Mattie


Excerpt from The Reality of Magic-Bread


When I was little,

 I used to be a teeny-bit angry about communion.

I thought that it was “magic bread”

And that we should have given a piece of it

To Jamie so that he wouldn’t die, or so that

He would come back to life, like Jesus did.

But now, I am five-and-a-half, and so much older.

Now I know that communion is not magic.

Miracles are not tricks.

They are real.

Heaven is real.

Jamie’s spirit is real and alive in Heaven.

But sometimes, what is real can feel very sad,

Even though later,

Like when we die and go to Heaven,

We will feel happy forever.

I believe all of that, God, but sometimes,

Waiting for what’s Real is really hard.


          Mattie J.T. Stepanek
          February 18, 1996
          Unpublished – Private Manuscripts

On Good Friday he reflects on Heaven, with this passage, meditation, and poem: 

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he or she is God’s messenger, will share in his or her reward. And whoever welcomes a good person because the person is good, will share in his or her reward.”Matthew 10:40-41


“Only God knows exactly what ‘Heaven’ means, but we know that it is the best-of-the-best, and it is forever. So always live with your heart set on Heaven.” – Matti

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

On the final page of his Lenten booklet, Mattie invites each of us to reflect and ponder on the messages shared, and to respond at a personal level with praise and prayer, and he encourages us to:

“…choose to reach out with the Message, by sharing your Heartsong with others. Share God through your words and way of living, every day.”

As we move through this Holy Week, and through each week of our lives, let the purity of Mattie’s belief and faith open our hearts to God, and to His son, Jesus Christ, and to the beautiful glories that are the truth of Heaven.

The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
April Guild Reflection here…

View and download our
Spring Guild Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR pages — coming soon…

March 2019 Message from the Guild

March 2019 Reflection
Ash Wednesday & Lent

A Lenten Journey with Mattie J.T. Stepanek
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

 When Mattie was eight years old, he created a Lenten booklet entitled “Ponder, Praise, and Prayer” with meditations for every day of Lent and Holy Week. He begins each day with a reflection and selection from sacred scripture. He then responds to the Word by adding his own personal thoughts. And then finally, he reaches out to readers sharing one of his Heartsong poems to complete the meditation for the day. As we enter this Lenten season, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild shares with you an excerpt from these private, unpublished meditations so you may come into a deeper understanding of Mattie’s profound dialogue with God and his grace-filled spirituality.

In the preface of this booklet, Mattie offers us an invitation:

“As you move through Lent and Holy Week, I encourage you
to ponder and reflect on the Bible verse suggested for each day.
Then, give praise through your personal response to the verse.
And finally, choose to reach out with the Message,
by sharing your
Heartsong with others.
Share God through your words and way of living, every day.”

This was Mattie’s meditation for Ash Wednesday:

Ponder & Reflect:

The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age. — Matthew 28:16-20

Praise & Respond:

We must have faith in God. We must look for God in others, and in all of life. We must never give up,for it is never too late. Just say ‘yes’ to God. – Mattie

Pray & Reach Out:

Facing the Future
Every journey begins
With but a small step.
And every day is a chance
For a new, small step
In the right direction.
Just follow your Heartsong.

     Mattie J.T. Stepanek
December 31, 1998
Journey Through Heartsongs
(Hyperion 2002)


The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
March Guild Reflection here…


View and download our
March Guild Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR) pages here…
(coming soon…) 

Mattie Remembered in Parish Times

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.

To view the full issue of the January 2019 Parish Times — CLICK HERE… 

To view the “Remember Mattie” article — CLICK HERE… 


“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