Meet Fr. Stephen Martz, Vicar of Holy Innocents

15 August 2006

Dear People of Holy Innocents,

As we begin what I hope will be a long and fruitful relationship, I want to tell you a bit about myself and how I approach priestly ministry. I think most of you know that I’ve been vicar of St. Nicholas for more than a decade, and will continue in that role as well as be with you.

I’ll begin with a confession. Growing up in a nominally Methodist family, I never imagined that one day I would be a priest, and although I’m glad I am, I’d rather be playing third base for the Washington Senators. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Regrettably, the Senators left town — twice! — when I was still a little boy, and now I’m even older than Julio Franco. That dream has gone past me like a hard line drive just past an outstretched glove. Sometimes dreams get past us, but when they do, God always sends new ones our way. It’s up to us to be ready to field them.

That’s a pretty good metaphor for how I go about being a priest. I try to help people field the new dreams God is always hitting our way. I hope in the year ahead I can help both Holy Innocents and St. Nicholas field some new dreams.

The two congregations are different liturgically — and of course I will honor those differences — but I have long felt they are more alike than most people recognize, and I am certain the future will be brighter for both if they can find ways to “play ball” together.

But I run ahead of myself. Let me tell you a bit more about me. Growing up in Washington, D.C. during the 1960s, I was inevitably drawn to politics. For better or worse, however, my political career came to an end (after a presidential and a Senate campaign) when I concluded that I never, ever wanted to spend another night on a hard floor in a sleeping bag.

Following that epiphany, I finished college, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Maryland with a degree in English literature, and had a brief career in journalism before a quite unexpected religious conversion at age 28. To my utter astonishment, that led me into the Roman Catholic Church and a religious order. Except for falling in love shortly before I would have been ordained, I’d still be there.

But fall in love I did, and that ultimately led me into Anglicanism. (God is always batting new dreams down the third base line.) My wife, Carla Amato, is an attorney turned social worker who now works for Catholic Charities after spending 10 years at the department of Children and Family Services. We have two children. David, who will turn 16 on the Feast of St. Ambrose, is a sophomore at Glenbard West while Jonathan, who turns 14 on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, is entering 8th grade at Hadley. Both schools
are in Glen Ellyn, where we have lived since 1993. Carla loves greyhounds and crossword puzzles; the boys love baseball and basketball.

Besides my work as a priest, I also am trained as a psychotherapist and have a small private practice — it’s another way of helping people dream new dreams when the old ones no longer work. In that part of my life, I’ve been particularly inspired by the work of the Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung and am completing training as a Jungian analyst. I will tell you more about this part of my life as we get to know one another. For now, I simply want you to know I am truly excited to be coming to Holy Innocents.

My focus for the first several months will be straightforward:

  • I want to get to know you,
  • I want to come to love you,
  • I want to laugh with you.

Laughter will be the most important of the three. I believe this because I fell in love with Carla by laughing with her, and over the years I’ve noticed that our love is always strongest when our laughter is frequent.

I am by nature fairly quiet and won’t be wisecracking my way through homilies. In fact, my homiletic humor is pretty dry, and can easily be missed. But I’ve learned over the years to laugh at myself — there’s a lot of material — and to laugh with others, and I am sure if we can laugh together, everything else will be fine.

Finally, although I never will play third base for the Senators — or even the Cubs or Sox — 12 years of parish ministry have convinced me that being a parish priest and playing third base are pretty much the same job. So in the end, I’ve got my dream job. Ask me about that sometime.

Many blessings,

Steve


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