Roanoke man’s faith journey is told in new book by first-time author

Steve Wagner is baptized by Msgr. Charles Beebe in 2013 at St. Joseph's Church in Roanoke. His faith journey is told in the new book "From Assisi to Christ" written by Ron Thorne of Peoria.

What started as a conversation between two men — one of them searching for answers — during a Cursillo weekend in June 2012 is now a book about conversion and healing called “From Assisi to Christ.”

Steve Wagner of Roanoke is the man who made that journey, which is recounted in detail by Ron Thorne of Peoria. The first book written by the former radio personality and sales manager, Thorne’s manuscript turned out to be the answer to Wagner’s prayer.

Steve and April Wagner.

April and Steve Wagner

Wagner was a self-described agnostic — “I didn’t disbelieve, I just didn’t fully believe” — for much of his life. That began to change when he took his wife, April, to Italy in 2011 and had a powerful experience at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi.

“It was very much like a weight being pulled off and out of me,” he tells Thorne in the book.

April had been praying that their grandson who was about to be born would be free of adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a disease that runs in her family. It largely affects males and those who are affected can lose the ability to walk, talk and swallow. April has lost three brothers to the disease.

Another powerful experience at the tomb of Archbishop Fulton Sheen in New York City resulted in Steve’s promise to God that he would follow the Catholic Church. He made a Cursillo weekend, where he met Thorne, and went through the Rite of Christian Imitation of Adults at St. Joseph Church in Roanoke.

The story and photos of his baptism, confirmation and reception of the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil on March 30, 2013, ran in the April 14, 2013, issue of The Catholic Post.

Since then, the Wagners have become active in Cursillo, serving as team members and giving talks. Their son Ben has been renewed in his practice of the faith and his fiancé was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil this year. They will be married next July.

Born with ALD, their grandson Jaxson is better and his baby brother Liam was born without the disease. Liam is a bone marrow match for Jaxson and it is hoped that in time he will be able to help his brother.


After learning of Steve Wagner’s “profound story” at the Cursillo weekend in 2012, Thorne called him and proposed the book.

“I’ve never written a book, but maybe this would be the time to try to do that,” he told Wagner.

“Ron, I’ve been praying that someone would come forth because I’m not a writer. I was hoping someone would come forward and say, ‘I will write this story,’” Wagner told him. “You’re an answer to a prayer.”

The Wagners wanted to leave a record of his conversion story for their family to have in years to come, Thorne said.

After several conversations with the Wagners, he began writing last year. They decided to publish it locally and chose Versa Press of Spring Bay, with 21 friends making donations to cover costs.

In addition to Steve Wagner’s story, the slender paperback includes sections on ALD and Cursillo, and includes “A Pastor’s Reflection” from Msgr. Charles Beebe, who was at St. Joseph in Roanoke when Wagner came into the church. Proceeds from the book, which is available for $10 at Lagron-Miller in Peoria and the Peoria Cursillo Center, will benefit Cursillo and ALD research.

Thorne is working with Lagron-Miller to set a date for a book signing in September. Watch for more information.

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