LEICESTER, Mass. — In his short time serving as the pastor at St. Joseph's and St. Pius X in Leicester, Rev. Stephen Johnson left an indelible mark on the parishes and the communities, and this Saturday the Church plans to rededicate its chapel in his name.
Sept. 15 will mark the anniversary of Johnson's death from cancer last year, an illness that Rev. Rob Loftus said may have taken his life, "but couldn't take his spirit."
Even as he battled with his cancer, Loftus remembers Johnson as a strong man, who gave himself fully to the church over the years.
After decades of carrying out his ministry in churches around Worcester County, Johnson began serving as the pastor of St. Joseph and St. Pius X parishes in 2009.
Known as a humble and quiet man, Johnson was very dedicated to his work as a priest.
"He lived for it," said Loftus, who explained that even though Johnson had only served as the pastor for a few years, "in that short time he had touched a lot of lives here," and the parish had in turn had touched him.
Most recently, the parishes celebrated one of Johnson's many contributions at this weekend’s Family Fun Fair, which he had envisioned three year ago as an opportunity to bring families together.
Loftus said it was moving to see how the parish volunteers worked to continue the fair this year for him, knowing how important he was to them. He expects the tradition to continue next year, potentially later in the season.
To further reflect on Johnson's life, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the community is invited to join the church for a Memorial Mass, which will be followed with a rededication of the chapel in his name.
Loftus said that renaming the chapel after Johnson not only honors him, but will help people continue to understand that even after his passing "he still has a role in this parish. He is still here."
The small chapel, which serves St. Joseph's parish, was furnished in honor of Konnie and Ethel Astukewicz and Norman Cormier.
St. Joseph's parish is located at 759 Main Street in Leicester.