By Eileen Connelly, OSU  

A father and son duo inspired each other on the path of discernment and experienced Franciscan joy along the way. Br. Maxwell Klug, OFM, ordained to the priesthood last year, grew up in a supportive and faith-filled home, with his parents Steve and Paula setting a strong example. In turn, Br. Maxwell’s call to Franciscan life encouraged Steve, who was raised Lutheran, on his journey to Catholicism.  

“When Paula and I got married, we agreed we would raise our children Catholic, and I thought about converting, but the time wasn’t right,” Steve explained. “It’s a decision that’s very personal. You can’t rush it.”  

Journey to becoming a friar 

Br. Maxwell and his sisters went to Catholic school, the family attended Sunday Mass together at their Milwaukee parish and Steve was an active volunteer.  

“Dad was always very supportive of our Catholic faith growing up,” Br. Maxwell said. “He and my mom always made sure we knew how important it is in our lives.” 

In that nurturing environment, Br. Maxwell said he felt “pulled” toward a vocation to the priesthood at an early age. The call deepened during his junior year at St. Thomas More High School in Milwaukee when Br. Maxwell participated in a pilgrimage to Assisi.  

“I fell in love with the spirituality and charism of the friars while I was there,” he said. “It was the understanding of poverty that goes so much beyond the physical and the tangible, a radical poverty that focuses on relationships, giving of oneself to others, living a simple life devoted to Jesus.  

“When we came back to the United States, I started visiting the local friars and getting to know their ministries. Seeing their fraternity, who they were with each other, was beautiful and made me feel so comfortable.” 

It was that sense of family that helped reassure Steve and Paula when they dropped their 18-year-old son off in Cedar Lake, Indiana, the site of the postulancy program for the legacy Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province.  

“We were very supportive of Max, but also experiencing some uncertainty about what life would look like for him as a Franciscan,” Steve admitted. “But our experience of meeting the friars and asking questions and getting to know them really put our minds at ease.” 

His parents’ prayers were with Br. Maxwell as his journey in Franciscan life progressed. He went on to attend Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Chicago, and Catholic Theological Union to pursue a Master of Divinity degree. 

Br. Maxwell made his temporary profession in 2014; professed solemn vows in 2017; and was ordained a transitional deacon in 2022. He has been involved in a variety of ministries, including work with active and former gang members; ministry to and with immigrants and refugees; and serving as a licensed child and adolescent trauma therapist.  

Br. Maxwell recently returned to St. Thomas More High School to teach French, personal morality and social ethics.  

Inspired by Franciscan joy to become Catholic

Meanwhile, his parents have come to know his fellow friars on a deeper level, especially Br. John Cella, OFM, guardian, and the brothers at Francis and Clare Friary, in Franklin, Wisconsin, where Br. Maxwell resides.  

“We experience that Franciscan joy whenever we visit the friary,” Steve said. “The way we’re welcomed and the way we’re treated is like coming come home, like we’re one of their own. We’re part of the Franciscan family.”  

Witnessing the friars’ joy and experiencing his son’s own, prompted Steve to take the next step on the journey of faith.  

As Br. Maxwell’s ordination to the priesthood drew near last year, Steve approached Br. Ed Tlucek, OFM, then pastor at St. Clare Church in Wind Lake, Wisconsin, about the RCIA process. Br. Ed had come to know the Klug family well as Br. Maxwell’s postulant director and when his parents attended Mass at St. Clare.  

“Steve had always felt comfortable in the Catholic environment,” Br. Ed said. “I think as he saw the joy in Maxwell’s life in a very real way, he thought, ‘It’s time. I’m ready now.”   

Br. Maxwell said, “I wasn’t surprised by Dad’s decision. I always felt he would join the Church. It was just a matter of when.” 

“It was definitely God’s timing,” Steve said.  

Because Br. Ed had been named to the Provincial Council for the soon-to-be unified Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the RCIA process was expedited so Steve could be received into the church before the friar departed St. Clare.  

Br. Maxwell, who served as Steve’s spiritual advisor, said, “It was really beautiful to be on that journey with my dad. I’ve always prayed for my family, as a priest and as a Franciscan, but there was an added dimension of prayer for my dad, and it really deepened our spiritual connection.” 

“It was also a chance to look at the Church with fresh eyes and have some fun and challenging theological conversations with my dad,” he added. “It really helped me appreciate my CTU education.”  

“It was easy to talk to Max and ask him questions because he’s my son,” noted Steve, who, in addition to learning more about the Catholic faith, has also made a concerted effort do plenty of research on St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality over the years.  

“Max has provided clarity about many things and really been an inspiration through his faith and commitment to his vocation.”  

Two men wearing suits and ties stand next to a Franciscan friar in a brown habit and a priest in green vestments. All are smiling. You can feel their joy.

From left: Gary Clausing, RCIA sponsor and friend; Br. Maxwell's father Steve Klug; Br. Ed Tlucek, OFM, and Br. Maxwell Klug, OFM.  (Photo courtesy of Br. Maxwell)

An emotional day for the Klug family 

The joy was obvious all around when Steve was received into the Church last September, said Br. Ed, who presided at the Mass at St. Clare Church, with Br. Maxwell as concelebrant.  

“It was such a powerful day and there was joy on everyone’s faces,” Br. Ed said. “Paula was standing right behind Steve as Max confirmed him and their faces were beaming.”  

“I don’t know if I have the words to describe what it meant to me,” said Br. Maxwell. “It was such a beautiful moment in my young priesthood to confirm my dad and give him his first Eucharist. As I anointed him, I had to pause briefly due to the emotion. It was so special to be able to celebrate with my dad, my family and the faith community. It goes back to the Franciscan charism of community.”  

“I remember being very nervous, yet very happy, that Max was going to do the confirmation. That made things even more special,” Steve said.  

Now that some time has passed, father and son have had the opportunity to reflect on the journey of faith that continues to unfold and what it means to them.  

“I pray more often now and more deeply,” Steve said. “It’s not that I didn’t pray before, but I feel closer to God now, things are clearer and my faith more relevant.”  

“I see my dad engaging more in the word of God and his faith is more at the forefront now,” said Maxwell. “He always had that recognition that God is with us, in us and in our experiences with others, but there seems to be a freedom to talk about his faith now. I can see his joy and happiness. My Franciscan joy has rubbed off on him.”