May 18, 2017
Paulist Deacon Steven Petroff is a kind of survivor on the spiritual journey — a model for anyone who believes that if you work hard and stay close to God, doors that appeared closed will open.
His initial stint in seminary, just after high school, didn’t go well. He left after 18 months. But now, years after that first experience, Deacon Steve has clearly found his niche. On May 20, he’ll be ordained as a priest with the Paulist Fathers.
“I look forward to doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he says. “I can’t say what that’s gonna be aside from parish ministry … I’m looking forward to letting it happen and knowing I’m in the right place at the right time and letting God do His work with me.”
Since Deacon Steve felt called to be a priest from a young age, his earlier experience hit him hard at the time.
“I struggled a lot with my faith and with God. It took me a while to come back kind of in tune with my faith and with my relationship with God,” he says.
He left the church for years, but while working in Los Angeles, a friend invited him to what he describes as a popular New Age church.
“I grew to enjoy it, I enjoyed the minister’s preaching,” he says. “One Sunday, his message basically was God wants us to be happy. And for some reason it was if I never heard that before. I still had it somewhere in the back of my head that if we’re too happy, if things are too good, we must be doing something wrong. And it dawned on me that that is not God’s plan or God’s idea at all. And I began to, I guess, as I put these pieces together realize my perception of God has been very skewed all for many years. And in the end this whole kind of realization drew me back to the Church. That really opened my eyes and my heart to begin to build my own relationship with Christ.”
His relationship with Christ, as well as with God and Mary now seem especially intimate and familiar.
“The last handful of years, I’ve really had kind of a growing appreciation for Jesus as my brother,” Deacon Steve says. “Almost, I guess, a big brother who for many years I thought was out of picture. But who, the last handful of years I’ve discovered, realized he was never out of the picture.”
He says that looking back on his time of being angry with God helps him realize that God is a loving father who can take it.
“He would rather take that than to harm ourselves or aim it elsewhere.”
Deacon Steve’s favorite saint is the Blessed Virgin Mary. He says this owes partly to his own mother’s great devotion to Mary, but he also has his own relationship with Mary. He describes one period of being unemployed for almost nine months while living in the famously expensive Los Angeles.
“I did all the things you can do and the job hunting and all of that,” Deacon Steve says. “And after a few months I began to get more and more nervous. I just I turned to Mary and said, ‘I’m gonna rely on your intercession.’ And it was a constant source of confidence in a very scary time.”
He found work then. And now, through his continued relationships with Jesus, God, and Mary, he’s found a permanent position with the Paulist Fathers.