Archbishop Larry Steubben, the 'super manager' who organized Pope John Paul II's historic visit to San Antonio in 1987 and who was the Administrative Leader of the San Antonio Archdiocese for three decades, died today in hospice care. He was 84.
Steubben was a native of San Antonio and a graduate of Central Catholic High School and Our Lady of the Lake University.He started his ministry as a priest at St. Cecilia's parish after being ordained by Archbishop Robert Lucey in 1955.
While remaining in active ministry, the Archdiocese quickly noticed Steubben's administrative abilities, appointing him secretary to Bishop Steven Leven. “I guess if I could summarize my more than 50 years in ministry,” said Msgr. Stuebben in a 2008 interview with Today’s Catholic archdiocesan newspaper, “I was happy every place I went and every job I had.”
Happy is a word that definitely characterized this people-oriented priest who has served the Archdiocese of San Antonio in so many ways over the years ― and continued to serve them in his retirement.
Steubben also worked as vocation director for the Archdiocese, and as a theology teacher at Incarnate Word High School.
But it was when Pope John Paul II announced plans to visit San Antonio in 1987, that the full range of Steubben's management skills were put to the test. He organized the smoothly running 36 hours that the Pope was in San Antonio, from his arrival at Kelly Field to the Mass in Westover Hills, which remains the largest gathering for a single event in Texas history.
He also was the parish priest at St. Matthew parish in San Antonio, and St. Louis parish in Castroville.
“Being a part of the life of those people,” he said, “walking with them through good times and the tough times ― the joys and sorrows in their lives, really being related to them, being part of their families, that’s been a really big thing.”
Steubben was known around the Catholic Chancery for singing 'Happy Birthday' to employees and the religious on their birthdays. If they weren't in the office that day, he would record the song or sing it to them on the phone.
His favorite subject was the priesthood and his love and awe of preaching God’s word. “I’m not sure most people realize what a gift it is,” he said, “to give people the Lord in the Eucharist, or to be able to ask God to forgive their sins, heal them, welcome them home, open the door for them, help them to come to know who they are, the gifts we share, the promise that’s ours. That’s a fantastic thing!” Over the years, in all his jobs, he tried to maintain close contact with parish priests, noting “that’s where the rubber hits the road.”
IMAGE: CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF SAN ANTONIO