September 10, 2012
The third time was definitely the charm for Father Steven Bell, CSP.
At first, Father Bell turned down the opportunity to work at Busted Halo, the Paulist outreach to spiritual seekers in their 20s and 30s which includes a SiriusXM Satellite radio show, dynamic web site, podcasts, retreats and additional outreach to young adults.
“I just didn’t feel I was the right person for this ministry,” he said. “I didn’t feel I could leave [young adults] with anything substantive.”
But Father Bell, ordained a Paulist priest in 2008, was asked a third time to come to Busted Halo and accepted. Then something amazing happened.
“The minute I said yes, young adults were coming up to me in droves telling me about my ministry to them,” he said.
Since officially joining the staff on Aug. 13 as associate director, Father Bell has been writing, podcasting, leading retreats, fulfilling a speaking engagement at a young adult retreat and enhancing media outreach to the Busted Halo audience.
“We are truly an outreach on so many levels, and not just a web site,” said Father Bell, 44. “It amazes me how substantive we are. We are not afraid to tackle the issues that require attention, of seeing both sides of the story.”
For someone who was unsure about entering young adult ministry, Father Bell’s faith journey has certainly led the way to Busted Halo. His served a ministry assignment with what is now Busted Halo while still a Paulist student during the summer of 2006; his first priestly assignment as associate pastor at St. Austin Church in Austin, Tex. St. Austin is located mere blocks from the University of Texas at Austin, whose University Catholic Center is also served by the Paulists.
“St. Austin has about 600 young adults on the rolls and about three or four dozen that are really involved, so I am used to life around young adults,” said Father Bell. “[Busted Halo] is using the tools of this age to reach young adults. We are meeting them where they are, and that is indeed Paulist.”
And, indeed, so is Father Bell.
Growing up in the Church of Christ, Father Bell followed the example of faith set by his parents and grandparents.
“If you lived in my house, you went to church,” he said, remembering that his Bible study instructor was dazzled when a seven-year-old Steve Bell knew the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.
“Ever since I was 16 years old, I knew that ministry was going to be a major part of my life,” said Father Bell, who always felt comfortable participating in church life, sometimes spending 10 hours at church every Sunday in doing so.
“I decided to become true to my church-aholism, and I loved every minute of it,” he said.
After a self-described two-year “pilgrimage” in search of a new church home, Father Bell found Catholicism “in the right place at the right time.”
“I was at a particular time in my life when I was searching for a particular place where I could bring my whole self to the altar of God,” he said.
Father Bell officially entered the Catholic Church in 1994, and began exploring the priesthood three years later.
“I figured the only way to really do this right was to be a priest or a brother,” he said.
After exploring the diocesan priesthood in Washington and a few religious orders, Father Bell didn’t feel his search proffered a good match.
“I I felt there was a certain type of person they were looking for in religious life, and I wasn’t that person,” he said. “I gave up the search.”
It wasn’t until he was asked to sponsor someone entering the church that his exploration would bear fruit. As part of being a sponsor, Father Bell attended an IMPAC (Improving My Personal Act with Christ) retreat. Out of about 40 retreatants, he met a Paulist seminarian who became his retreat roommate and tablemate.
“The first night I asked him all kinds of questions about the seminary, and the second night was all about me,” recalled Father Bell. “I told him that I wanted to work for unity among our churches and that I loved to let people know that they know that they know that God really loves them. He looked at me and said, ‘Oh my God! You really are a Paulist!’”
On a later visit to St. Paul’s College, and during a conversation with some Paulists and other guests, Father Bell realized he felt right at home.
“It made me stop and say, ‘This is the place,’” he said.
And now his place is at Busted Halo, where he might just surprise himself with his aptitude for ministry to young adults.
“I have a lot to contribute, but still have a lot to learn, and I am really, really excited about that,” he said.