Precious Blood parishioner felt called to equip the saints

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Imagine being excited to tell your family and friends that you finally received a job offer after a long and arduous search. After their initial exclamations of joy, your loved ones would naturally ask the next question - where is this new job? For Steven Hemler, that "where" was the Middle East.

Many of his family were in disbelief that Hemler would move to a place known for hostility toward Westerners. Hemler wrote a long letter to his extended family, explaining why he had decided to accept the position as a loss prevention specialist. Subsequently, the Hemler family moved from Tennessee to the Arabian Peninsula in 1998. Their faith in God helped them through the transition, and before they knew it, the new country felt less foreign and more like home. A good salary, nice house, horses and vacations to Europe and the Holy Land were just some of the perks of his new job. So after 13 years it took yet another letter from Hemler to explain why he was dropping all of it to answer what he felt was a call from God to bring Catholics back into the fold.

A spring in the desert

It is hard to pinpoint where and when the first domino fell and started Hemler on this journey toward the new evangelization. He had felt a calling to help the church in some capacity since high school but put it aside as he finished his engineering degree and started a family. Even though Hemler managed to find part-time ways to help the church, particularly in pro-life organizations, he still maintained what he called a "divine discontent."

"No matter what I've done, it still feels like God is calling me to do more," said Hemler. After settling into his job in the Middle East, Hemler found that he was left with a considerable amount of free time. This enabled him to devote attention to special projects and help his church community prepare children for the sacraments. When it came time for his own children to attend boarding school in America, he and his wife, Linda, wanted to make sure the children left knowing their faith.

"Statistics show that one-third of those raised Catholic just don't believe anymore," said Hemler. He witnessed firsthand the result of what he calls "the massive hemorrhaging of faith" when he learned that many of his American coworkers were former Catholics who had left the faith in college. So, in preparation for his own children leaving for school in 2005, he created his first presentation that covered faith and moral challenges.

The project quickly built momentum. Soon Hemler and his team were creating more presentations that covered a variety of topics such as church history, Vatican II and even Islam. In 2007, he began showing his presentations at the annual Christian Formation Conference in Dubai, which was met with standing-room-only success.

With the popularity of the presentations growing, the Hemlers realized that what they were doing needed to leave the confines of their home. They made the decision to retire early. Hemler once again wrote to his family and friends, explaining why, at age 55, he was walking away from his job to serve the church.

"One of the reasons I believe we were called to the Middle East was so I could take an early retirement," said Hemler. "My family and I prayed about it, and we decided it was the right thing to do." The move back to the states finally came in 2011, and the family settled in Culpeper County.

The mission begins

Now officially "retired," Hemler did anything but sit around. He first founded the Catholic Apologetics Institute of North America and serves as the president of the organization. Through CAINA and its website, he was able to provide information to help Catholics better understand the faith with online powerpoints and videos.

He started working with Precious Blood Church in Culpeper to organize a number of presentations for the church's youth ministry program that also were open to adults. The first of these talks took place Sept. 11, 2011, when Hemler gave his presentation on Islam and Christianity. Since then, Hemler has given close to 100 presentations in churches, schools and universities throughout Virginia and surrounding states.

After hearing about an upcoming presentation, Carol Daley approached Hemler to ask if he had ever considered doing a seminar for Catholic Distance University in Hamilton. Intrigued with the idea, he contacted the university. CDU accepted his proposal, and he worked to convert his presentation on the proof of God's existence into seminar form. The course was offered first as a three-week apologetics seminar in July 2012.

"People want to see the evidence," said Hemler. "In schools, science is presented as an opposition to God, and it doesn't have to be that way."

While the positive feedback was welcome, Hemler insists the best thing that came out of the experience was that it forced him to convert his presentation into document form, something he never would have done on his own. "God had things in mind that I had never thought of ... like making a book," said Hemler.

The seminar served as a starting point for his book, The Reality of God: The Layman's Guide to Scientific Evidence for the Creator, published through St. Benedict Press.

"I never intended to take the presentations on the road," said Hemler. " It's been a real gift and honor to be able to do this, a real blessing." Hemler continues his work to "equip the saints" through his organization and his work with CDU. His presentations and writings encompass the spirit of the new evangelization by providing Catholics with the tools they need to fortify their faith and reach out to others who have fallen away.

Hear him speak:

Steven Hemler will present "Compeling Evidence of God's Existence,"at St. Michael School, 7401 St. Michawl's lane in Annandale, March 15 at 7 p.m. Call 703/256-0446 for more information.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015