July 26, 2016
St. Stephen Catholic Church Celebrates First Priest, Father Jonathan Stephanz
By Renee Hobbs
Father Jonathan Stephanz (pronounced Stephen), a newly ordained Roman Catholic Priest, said his first Mass on Father’s Day at his new home, St. Paul’s Catholic Church in St. Petersburg.
Stephanz grew up in the Brandon/Riverview area, attended St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico and is considered their “first homegrown priest.” Stephanz said, “After my Confirmation when I was 15, I was sitting at the table and told my family I was considering the Priesthood. It was something that had just come to me one day and I wanted to tell my parents.”
Stephanz was one of five priests who were recently ordained in this Diocese. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, almost 600 priests were ordained last year in the United States, which is an increase from the previous year. The 27 year old new priest said his background has always been music and is used to performing in front of people, so he really wasn’t that nervous as he officiated over his first celebration. Stephanz has been musically inclined since age two and his instruments include the harp, along with the violin and viola, which he still plays. At his new assignment at St. Paul’s, the enthusiastic priest is set to work with the youth and the churches school, and he added, “I really want to teach there.”
The most challenging part of his priestly position said a serious Stephanz, is that he doesn’t have all the answers. “Some people look to priests for this and I need to be okay with saying I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll find them.”
This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by current Pope Francis, and Stephanz smiled and admitted, “It is incredible to be ordained in this Year of Mercy.” One memory that will stay with Stephanz forever he said, was when retired priest Monsignor Scully died on the altar of St. Stephen in 2010 while saying Mass. “He was a beautiful inspiration,” Stephanz said. If you’re in St. Petersburg, be sure to look up Father Jonathan; He will be the one in the white collar and Birkenstocks. For more information about the priesthood, call the Diocese at 727-344-1611 or visit dosp.org.