By William T. Clew
Father Stephen E. Lundrigan said he knew when he was a youngster that he wanted to be a priest.
He just didn’t know that God’s plan for that to happen would take quite a bit longer that he first thought it would.
When he was about 10 years old, he said, he used to say “Mass” at the kitchen table while his youngest sister, then about 2, sat on his mother’s lap and watched.
It wasn’t until about 37 years later that he was ordained a priest and now can celebrate a real Mass.
Father Lundrigan, was born Feb. 7, 1968 in Springfield, son of Edward and Sandra Lundrigan. When he was about 3 years old the family moved to Brimfield.
He attended St. Mary Elementary School and Marianhill High School in Southbridge, then entered St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. He graduated in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
His first job after college was in Worcester, working as a counselor with troubled and problem young people. He worked in a juvenile detention center run by the KEY Program Inc., for the Department of Youth Services. Later, he said, he worked for the DYS in outreach programs for troubled youth. He also studied part time at night at Assumption College and, in 1994, received a master’s degree in counseling psychology.
He then became a clinician in Life Resources Alpha Omega a residential program in Littleton run by Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston.
In 1997 he went back to Manchester, entered St. Anselm Abbey and became a Benedictine monk. He studied pre-theology and two years of theology.
He had taken temporary vows and had undergone a process of discernment while at the abbey. When it came time to decide whether to take permanent vows, he said, he felt that God’s plan was for him not to take them at that time. His temporary vows expired in 2001. He finished the academic year, then left the abbey and returned to Worcester.
“I thought I’d be back soon, either in another religious order or the diocesan priesthood,” he said.
Back in his apartment in Worcester he began searching out various religious orders on his “brand new computer,” he said. He had his state counseling license, and a friend, who was director of outpatient services at Adcare Hospital, told him about an opening for a counselor’s position there. At Adcare he worked mostly with adult patients but, because of his past experience, also with some adolescents. He said he still thought he would go back into a religious order in a year.
“But once again, God had other plans,” he said.
In 2002 he became the clinical director at a DYS secure treatment unit in Westborough.
“Then one thing led to another and another,” he said.
He began to teach part-time at Worcester State University in addition to his DYS work. Eventually he opened a private counseling practice. He rented an office on Grove Street and saw patients while he still was with DYS. By 2004 that private practice had grown into a full-time job. He said his mother was his office manager for eight years.
He started a non-profit organization called Unlocking Potentials for Growth, which provided housing and services for homeless young adults.
During this time he still was thinking about the priesthood. He said he also, at times, thought about getting married and raising a family. But, he said, his thoughts always went back to the priesthood.
“God was gently tugging, tugging, tugging,” he said.
He said he stayed in touch with Father James S. Mazzone, director of the diocesan Office for Vocations.
He began to phase out his business, not an easy thing to do when you have rent and debts you must take care of, he said. He cut the private practice back to part time and simultaneously worked for the Spencer/East Brookfield School District as therapeutic intervention specialist. Later he was program director at a substance abuse residential program in Ashby.
When he left St. Anselm Abbey in 2001, he thought he would be back within a year. Twelve years later, in 2013, he entered St. John Seminary, Brighton, to complete his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest June 20 by Bishop McManus in St. Paul Cathedral.
He said he believes that God has led him through various experiences during those 12 years – working with troubled young people, counseling adults, running a business, including a non-profit, dealing with people – that will stand him in good stead as a diocesan priest.