Related story: Archdiocese celebrates 25 years of bishop's service

Shortly after I arrived here as your archbishop more than five years ago, Bishop Ken Steiner invited me to make a pastoral visit to St. Mary's Church in Corvallis where he was then serving as pastor. I was eager to visit Oregon's Beaver country, and eventually I spent a summer's weekend with him, his staff and wonderful parishioners. I quickly came to understand why people give Bishop Steiner's 'straight A's' as pastor. In all his dealings with the people, he was Available, Approachable and Affable! To top it all off, he was serving as my Auxiliary Bishop just as he had Amicably served my three predecessors, Archbishops Power, Levada and George.

On Sunday, March 2, Bishop Kenneth D. Steiner, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland, will celebrate his 25th anniversary as a bishop. Back on that same date in 1978, he was ordained a bishop by Archbishop Cornelius M. Power during a splendid liturgy celebrated at Portland's Civic Auditorium. Ordained with him that day as auxiliary bishop was the Most Rev. Paul Waldschmidt, CSC, former President of the University of Portland. It was a great day for the Catholic community of western Oregon.

For a quarter of a century Bishop Steiner has been a very good shepherd to God's flock here in this archdiocese. That's a lot of service. As we were preparing for Sunday's celebration at St. Mary Cathedral, I began to wonder what I was doing back on March 2 of 1978. While Bishop Steiner was assuming these new and awesome responsibilities, I was still teaching high school and serving as an associate pastor. I was having fun. He was going to work!

During the 16 years of his priesthood prior to his episcopal ordination, Bishop Steiner had served both in southern and northern Oregon as an associate pastor, pastor, and chairman of the Priests' Personnel Committee. He had developed special ministries for couples preparing for marriage and also for divorced and separated Catholics. He was highly respected by his brother priests then, as he still is today. After 25 years as a bishop, that is no small accomplishment.

Service as an auxiliary bishop is by its very nature a challenge. Bishops are called to be the local spiritual leaders of their people. But an auxiliary bishop must lead without being in charge. In today's church when a diocese is so large as to require more than one bishop, rather than divide the diocese into smaller dioceses, some priests are called upon to assist the diocesan bishop in the episcopal order. Bishop Steiner has done this faithfully, capably and humbly with four very different archbishops. He has also served as the administrator of the archdiocese twice when Archbishops Levada and George were transferred in 1995 and 1997. I shall remain forever grateful to him for his gracious welcome, wise counsel and 'straight A' service in helping me teach, sanctify and guide the people of God in this local church.

Presently Bishop Steiner serves as pastor of St. Edward's Church in North Plains. He accepted this assignment to a smaller parish after his years in Corvallis and Milwaukie, so that he might be able to serve the archdiocese as Vicar for Senior and Infirm priests and also to collaborate with me and our Resource Development Office in encouraging good stewardship here in the archdiocese as we strive to be ever more effective in our evangelizing mission.

Bishop Steiner is one of five children of Lawrence and Florine Steiner. His father died when he was a youngster still living in Nebraska. His mother brought the family to Oregon, and she herself became a quiet but very gracious partner in his pastoral ministry. Her death nearly two years ago was mourned not only by her son but by all his brother priests who came to know her well and had grown fond of her over the years. In fact, it was Mrs. Steiner who served me my first meal as the newly appointed Archbishop of Portland back in October of 1997.

Over the years, Bishop Steiner has developed a reputation for a variety of personal and pastoral interests. There probably isn't a Catholic here in western Oregon who doesn't know how much he loves the game of golf. In fact, they tell me that, when he comes to a parish for Confirmation, he usually manages to coax the pastor out of the rectory for nine quick holes before the Confirmation ceremony is scheduled to begin. He engages young people easily and is always a welcome visitor in our parishes out on the Chrism trail during the Confirmation season. His sense of humor is legendary around the archdiocese, in spite of an occasional bad joke! He has encouraged Eucharistic adoration in our parishes and frequently speaks about that topic during pastoral visits. He is a strong advocate of the consistent ethic of life, regularly promoting respect for life from conception to natural death in many and varied situations.

We live in a time when many families are broken. Fatherless families have become the norm rather than the exception. Bishop Steiner's dad died when he was young. The bishop himself has now become a much-loved father figure in this local church. In carrying out his ministry as bishop, Bishop Steiner has provided the people of western Oregon with the very special gift of spiritual fatherhood, rooted in his own love of God and God's people. By the way he exercises his ministry and leads his daily life, he responds marvelously well to the need all people have to be fathered, as a spiritual guide, one who nurtures them in the ways of the kingdom. As we honor my brother bishop this coming weekend at St. Mary's Cathedral, we acknowledge his many gifts, but we praise God most of all for calling him to be a beloved father of us all and for supporting him in that special vocation.

Please do accept my sincere invitation to join us in celebrating the Eucharist with Bishop Steiner at St. Mary's Cathedral on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m., the actual silver anniversary date of his episcopal ordination. He may try to sneak in nine holes of golf before Mass, but I'm sure he'll be there. Why? I assured him that there would be 'no meetings' afterwards, only a public reception in the cathedral gym! There we can greet him together and rejoice in the gift of his fatherly presence among us as auxiliary bishop these past 25 years.