Born and raised in Boston, Father Stephen Norton is a diehard Red Sox fan. Yet, for the past 11 years he has called St. Benedict’s Church in Throggs Neck home.
However, like all good things, his time here has come to an end. In July, Norton is leaving the church for a six month sabbatical as he studies for a doctorate in ministry preaching.
He will miss the community, but is ready for the next chapter in life.
“What I’m hoping to accomplish is to be a resource for priests and others in the Catholic Church,” he said. “Preaching is so essential on Sunday. The sermon should lift them up, especially in this time with COVID-19 going on.”
Norton, 61, came to the Bronx in 2010 and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. The Father, who has been involved with the Catholic Church for 40 years, has been a priest for two decades.
He graduated from Iona College, was principal and later president, of Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers and taught at All Hallows High School and Iona Prep.
According to Norton, many people associate the Bronx with just fires and crime. However, it’s much more than that.
“The Bronx is a great tough place, but it’s filled with wonderful people,” he explained. “It’s really been a pleasure to be in Throggs Neck.”
Whether it was seeing his parishioners at the grocery store or talking baseball, he loved his time at St. Benedict’s. He noted he never switched allegiances.
According to Norton, this past year of the pandemic was the hardest of his career.
“Each time I encountered families and children in the parish it involved a funeral,” he commented.
As he looks ahead to the next part of his life, Norton has mixed feelings about departing St. Benedict’s. While he will miss the parishioners, he knows this is an opportunity he could not pass up.
“Hopefully I leave the people with a positive example of a priest,” he said.
One person who Norton impacted was Bob Nolan. Nolan, who is president of the Northeast Bronx Senior Center, which is part of the church, told the Bronx Times he has gotten to know Norton well over the years.
Nolan, of Morris Park, described Norton as a “mensch” and a gem.”
“I am heartbroken as I have considered Father to be a good friend, outstanding Pastor and rising star in the Church,” he said. “I really believe that Father Norton has a bright future in the Catholic Church. They’re getting the Bronx has the best to offer.”