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Yale 62

Stephen B. Clark

Steve Clark

* photo credit at bottom

Stephen Bruce “Steve” Clark passed away March 16, 2024 at Chelsea, Michigan. Steve was born on June 1, 1940, in New York City. He became a pioneer and leader of a charismatic revival within the Catholic faith that grew into an ecumenical movement involving thousands of Christians living in faith communities around the world.

Steve was my classmate at Peddie, where he excelled, winning nearly every academic honor and writing award the school bestows, including valedictorian of our class of 1958 and a national General Motors Scholarship that covered his four years at Yale.

Our English teacher at Peddie, Al Watson, once said that Steve was the only person he knew who, at the age of 17, had plotted the course of his life; and it entailed his becoming a Roman Catholic. Al, it turns out, knew Steve better than any of us! A Yalie himself, for our senior year Al created an AP “English” course, which was actually a crash course in Western culture to groom us for Yale. An unprecedented eight of us were accepted; one opted for Princeton.

At Yale, Steve continued to excel. In 1959, he won the Townsend Prize in English and the Hurlbut Prize in Latin. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. He was a ranking scholar all four years.

Steve was a member of Silliman College, where he roomed with Lee Bakunin, Paul Robinson, and Bernie Silbernagel. According to Lee, “Paul, Bernie and Steve were observant Catholics who attended Mass regularly while I, being Jewish, did not. Our suite was the meeting place for the St. Thomas More Society, and I was considered an honorary member. The Society met periodically and socialized, so there were always some nice snacks and camaraderie.”

By all accounts, Steve was moved by his study of the life of Francis of Assisi toward a “radical” understanding of Christianity. Under the auspices of the Yale Catholic chaplaincy, he went on a couple of summer missions to Mexico, where he met several members of the growing Cursillo movement. Cursillo is a “short course” method of building lay Christian communities beginning with an intensive three-day retreat of prayer and teaching.

Upon graduating Yale summa cum laude with a BA in history, Steve obtained a German Exchange Fellowship to study philosophy at the University of Freiburg with Catholic theologians Bernhard Welte and Klaus Hemmerle. He then returned to the US to pursue a doctorate in philosophy beginning at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, he again came in contact with Cursillo, participating in a three-day retreat that changed his life. Soon he was teaching other students about Christianity, inviting people on Cursillo weekends, and helping organize regular meetings of prayer and personal testimony on campus. This led to his leaving the doctoral program and giving himself fully to evangelism and community building.

Steve quickly became a leader in the Catholic charismatic renewal movement.

In 1967, he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with three friends who shared his evangelistic vision. There, they formed the first Charismatic covenant community called the Word of God. It soon included thousands of local Christians of various ages, backgrounds, and churches.

At the same time, Steve gathered a group of young men who sought to share a celibate life of simplicity, prayer, and service “living single for the Lord.” Together they formed a lay ecumenical brotherhood called the Servants of the Word with Steve as its first overall leader. They now have more than ten households in six countries, each comprised of up to 15 men.

In 1983, the Word of God and other related communities joined together to form an international community called the Sword of the Spirit, with Steve as its founding president. The Sword of the Spirit now has some 95 communities around the world with thousands of members.

Steve authored or compiled more than 20 books and several hundred articles. His writings have been instrumental in the development of the Christian charismatic movement and its ecumenical communities.

He has no surviving family outside of the brotherhood he helped build. For more about Steve, Servants of the Word have made available a volume of essays in his honor, a slideshow of his life, and a recorded livestream of his funeral mass.

“[Steve] received a vision and a call from the Lord to build Christian charismatic covenant community and to establish a lay ecumenical brotherhood of celibate men. Today, there are thousands of charismatic communities and thousands of men and women around the world who would say that their personal and communal inspiration came from Steve.” — Eulogy by Jean Barbara, Sword of the Spirit President, 22 March 2024

The Servants of the Word is an ecumenical, international brotherhood of men living single for the Lord within a larger community of communities, the Sword of the Spirit.

 

* photo of Stephen B. Clark © 2024 The Servants of the Word

 

— Gary E. Richardson

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