Music director loves leading people to the Lord
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is my vocation.”
To be able to utter those words with such joy and certainty is a blessing and it’s how George Stegeman, director of music at Guardian Angels Parish at Mt. Washington, speaks of his ministry.
A native of Cincinnati’s west side, Stegeman was introduced to the piano via childhood lessons and developed an early love for the liturgy as a server at St. Lawrence Parish in Price Hill. His formal introduction to liturgical music came at the Brunnerdale High School Seminary in Canton, where he learned music theory and played the organ at the rector’s request. It was the late 60’s and an exciting time in the church, Stegeman recalled.
While his calling ended up being to marriage and family (wife Marilyn and children Karyn, John, Rachel and Mary) rather than the priesthood, George made lifelong friends at the seminary and is grateful for his experiences there. Through working various jobs and raising a family, George “continued to tinker on the piano wherever I went.”
He credits the Holy Spirit with leading him to a bulletin board on the University of Cincinnati campus and a job posting for a part time music minister at St. Boniface Parish in Northside. It was a dream come true for George, who said, “I’d always been enthralled with the liturgy. Being a liturgical musician was all I ever wanted to be. I just love the liturgy and feel there should be a solemnity about it. We’re doing something heavenly here.”
Over the years, George’s ministry took him to St. Bernard in Taylor Creek, the former St. Elizabeth Parish in Norwood, St. Therese Little Flower Parish in Mt. Airy, and to Guardian Angels, where he has ministered for the past 12 years. He was also a member of the Athenaeum Chorale for 30 years and served on the archdiocesan Worship Commission.
Whether he’s playing for Guardian Angels’ four weekend liturgies, daily Mass, a wedding or a funeral, George believes “whatever one does musically, it should be done well.”
“It’s rewarding when people come up to you and tell you the liturgy was prayerful and celebratory and that the music was part of that,” he said. “You feel as though you’ve been part of leading people to the Lord.”
The next generation of Stegemans is also musically inclined. George’s nephew, Doug Stegeman, has been serving as music minister at St. John the Evangelist in Deer Park since 2012. Doug, who credits his uncle as the inspiration for his going into this line of work, first played music during Mass at the age of six (he’s now 23) at St. Anthony in Latonia, Ky., and went on to train with a master pianist who usually only accepted much older students. Prior to his ministry at St. John, Doug was alternately music director/accompanist at Our Lady of Victory Parish from 2007-09. In the interim, he worked other jobs while serving as a fill in as needed at various parishes.
“Doug is an incredible keyboard player,” George said. “He was fascinated with the piano as a child and could pick up anything. The Lord keeps supplying good people to serve his church and Doug is one of them.”
Keeping music in the family and inspired by his son’s endeavors, Jim Stegeman, took up playing the guitar and has shared his talents at church, as well as in a local band. “He’s quite a good bass guitarist,” said his brother, George.
Reflecting on his own ministry, George said, “I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to do what I do. It’s not work to be able to participate in the church’s liturgy on a daily basis, during the different seasons and the feasts that come up. This has been a journey that the Holy Spirit has led me on and I’ve worked with fantastic choirs and staff at every place I’ve been. I’ve learned something at all those places, too, and hope I’ve contributed something good there.”
This article, part of a special section on pastoral music, originally appeared in the July 2014 print edition ofThe Catholic Telegraph.