Brother Stephen J. Kennedy, C.M., longtime Niagara University postmaster and former director of the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Niagara Falls, passed away Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, at St. Catherine's Infirmary. He was 84.
A native of Philadelphia, Brother Steve entered the Congregation of the Mission in 1957 after serving in the Navy during World War II and pursuing a career as an optician. He was assigned to the Vincentian Motherhouse in Germantown, Pa., where he served in a variety of administrative posts. In 1963, he was assigned to Niagara University as postmaster of the University Post Office, a position he held for 25 years. He also coached the university's golf team and was moderator of the men's and women's hockey teams.
The same desire to "work with the people" that inspired him to become a Vincentian led him to donate countless hours to a variety of charitable causes in the Niagara Falls area, including Maranatha House and the Lampstead, two projects of the Catholic Worker. He tutored disadvantaged elementary and high school students and started a program to teach African American history in local churches and in the Niagara County jail. He was also actively involved in bringing a literacy program to the area's maximum-security prison.
In 1987, he established the St. Vincent de Paul Center of Niagara University. Under his direction, the center distributed millions of pieces of clothing, furniture and foodstuffs to disadvantaged families in Niagara Falls and the Tuscarora Indian Reservation. He also collected toys for needy children each Christmas. His enthusiasm for and devotion to this work inspired hundreds of Niagara University students to follow his example. These charitable deeds, he said, rounded out their education.
In recognition of his selfless dedication to the underserved, Brother Steve was honored with a number of awards, including the Niagara University Caritas Medal and the President's Medal from St. John's University. He is also the recipient of the Community Leader Award from the United Way of Niagara County and the Humanitarian Award from the Niagara County Black Achievers, and was named a Citizen of the Year by The Buffalo News.
A Mass will be held in his memory Friday, Oct. 7, at 12:15 p.m. in Niagara University's Alumni Chapel.