Cover photo for Fr. Stephen E. Popovich's Obituary
Fr. Stephen E. Popovich Profile Photo
1954 Fr. Stephen 2024

Fr. Stephen E. Popovich

November 24, 1954 — January 14, 2024

YOUNGSTOWN — Father Stephen E. Popovich, 69, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, surrounded by his family and private-duty nurses. 

He was born Nov. 24, 1954, in Youngstown, a son of Charles and Pauline Smith Popovich. Father Steve attended St. Matthias grade school, where he was a server and lector. He grew up loving fishing, baseball and delivering the newspaper. After graduating from St. Matthias grade school, his next step would be Cardinal Mooney High School, where he was a member of the Latin and drama clubs, and starred in “The King and I.” He graduated in 1972. 

Father Steve’s next school adventure would be Youngstown State University, where he would graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree, with majors in history and philosophy. He graduated from YSU in 1977. He attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, where he earned a master’s degree in scripture. While a seminarian, he served as scout chaplain at Camp Stambaugh. Due to his exemplary leadership, the Boy Scouts earned their Pius XII Award. He also holds a master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University, while studying there in the summer. 

In 1980, Father Steve was ordained a deacon and interned at St. John’s and at St. Paul’s in Canton. On June 6, 1981, Father Steve was ordained at St. Columba Cathedral by Bishop James W. Malone. 

St. Matthias was the setting for his first Mass on June 7, 1981. His initial assignment was at St. James Parish in Warren. At that time, he became chaplain of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Trumbull County. He joined the faculty of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1984 through 1989 and served as chaplain of the Catholic Committee on Scouting in Stark County.

In 1989, he returned to his alma mater as an associate principal. Fr. Popovich served as pastor of St. Lucy Parish from 1992 to 1995. In 1994, he was appointed director of continuing education for the Youngstown diocese and had been active in a variety of priest convocations. 

In 1995, he became pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Austintown. While at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Father Steve was involved in the Ulster Project and volunteered at the soup kitchen. He was involved in festivals, weightlifting contests and in the parish Bible school. He began the men’s renewal at the parish, a program where men gathered for a weekend, praying, singing, eating, sleeping and renewing their faith in God. 

Lastly, his next assignment was at St. Paul’s parish in New Middletown. He spent a lot of time fishing in the lake in front of the rectory. This was a time when he often prepared his homily for the upcoming Masses. He worked in the prison ministry while at this parish, and his work at this parish came to a halt at about 9 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2013.

His next home would be at Liberty Health Care Center in Liberty, where he often celebrated Mass or had a prayer service for the residents. They loved having a priest among them to give words of encouragement to the residents or families and to be there when the residents were at their end of life. His gardens brought joy to the residents, workers and families. 

He was an avid Steelers and San Antonio Spurs fan and a motorcycle enthusiast. He always put others first before himself, especially his family. He had a very generous heart and wallet. You always heard him before you even saw him, and was even described by one person as an earthquake! 

He loved and was so proud of being a priest and teaching everyone he met about Jesus. He was an inspiration to so many people because he did not let his disability prevent him from spreading the word of God. He had faith that could move mountains and focused on that faith until he took his last breath! 

Fr. Steve leaves his siblings, Charlie (Mary) Popovich, Margie (Mike) Cretella, Liz Popovich and John (Andrea) Popovich; nieces and nephews, Michael (Risa), Anthony (Stefanie) and Joseph (Rachel) Cretella, Monica (Osmal) Avila, Joshua Popovich, Phil Sherbondy and Jacob Curtis; and great-nieces and great-nephews, Vinny, Isabella, Caleb, Gianna, Alaina Cretella and Elena Avila.

He was preceded in death by his parents, and his brother, Eddie.

Friends and family may call on 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 4490 Norquest Blvd., Austintown, OH 44515, followed by an evening prayer service at 6 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, at St. Paul the Apostle Church, 10143 Main St., New Middletown, OH 44442.

Memorial contributions may be made to Immaculate Heart Of Mary Food Pantry or St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Arrangements are by the Higgins-Reardon Funeral Homes, Austintown. This obituary can be viewed and condolences sent to www.higgins-reardon.com.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Fr. Stephen E. Popovich, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Thursday, January 18, 2024

2:00 - 6:00 pm (Eastern time)

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

4490 Norquest Blvd, Austintown, OH 44515

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Mass

Friday, January 19, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. Paul the Apostle Church

10143 Main St, New Middletown, OH 44442

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