He makes it clear right on his website, “St. Stephen Parish is a ministry of The Society of Saint Edmund.” Five years ago, when he arrived to take over as pastor, this Parish was ripe for that special sense of hospitality and community he and his Edmundite brothers bring. “Our charism is one of accompaniment with people who are on the margins,” Father Hornat said. “This is a great place to plant the Edmundite spirit.”
Father was Superior General of The Society of Saint Edmund when he took on his role at St. Stephen. Prior to that, he served in Selma, Alabama for fifteen years where he was Director of Programs at Edmundite Missions, ran a volunteer corps, and served as pastor at Queen of Peace Parish.
St. Stephen Parishioner Chris Rabidoux said the Church had been searching for a sense of unity for some time. “We have become a family again,” she said. “We found direction again. Father Steve is a comforting presence for us. And he can sing!”
Father Hornat refuses to take all of the credit for the newfound unity. “It’s not just me,” he said. “We have such a talented group of people in the music ministry, and social outreach ministry, and that combination is successful. The whole idea is to build a vibrant Parish community together.”
Father Hornat was also pastor at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington at one time. There he started The Joseph’s House, founded in 2000, to serve the Old North end to promote social change in the community through outreach and Parish ministry and to assist with a variety of needs, such as utility shut-offs, food, clothing, bus passes and personal hygiene items.
His passion for outreach continues at St. Stephen where they just completed a successful Thanksgiving collection of children’s hats, mittens and scarves, which were distributed through Winooski Elementary School, Winooski Food Shelf and the Winooski Family Center. They are presently raising funds through their Advent Giving Tree program. They will distribute about $1,500 worth of Shaw’s Gift Cards to needy families this season.
Through the work of the Social Outreach Committee, the Parish is socially engaged in the Winooski Community and with homebound Parishioners. “This committee does an outstanding job keeping our nursing home and homebound connected to the Parish,” Father Hornat said.
Social Outreach Committee Coordinator Sheila Cort-Desrochers said the Church has a vibrant daily mass at 7:30 every morning. “Father Steve gives a great homily and we all love it,” she said. “It is like a little retreat. His role, and the role of the Edmundites, is to help us on our journey through this life. He offers us words of encouragement and uplifts us. He nurtures us.”
Chris Rabidoux added that Music Director Peg Lesage plays an important role in the Parish and many rely heavily on her direction. Father Hornat said lay leadership has become a central component in running a successful Parish and he welcomes any and all talents into the fold at St. Stephen.
“It is all part of being a community and being there for one another,” Sheila said. “People today are looking for that. We feel blessed to have the leadership and guidance of Father Steve. He brought us together and encourages us to keep doing this good work.”
Advent Confessions: The Sacrament of Penance will be available at 6:30 pm on Wed., Dec. 11 at Saint Stephen’s Parish in Winooski with Edmundite Fathers Berube, Theroux and Hornat. See you there!