Father Stephen Joseph Fichter, pastor of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey, is also an adviser for Villanova University’s Center for Church Management and a research associate at The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
Father Stephen obtained a Ph.L. and an S.T.B. from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, an M.S.W. from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers University.
Following in the footsteps of his well-known granduncle, the Jesuit scholar Father Joseph Fichter, Stephen’s research interests cover all issues related to the sociology of religion, especially those that focus on clergy and parish life. His social work thesis, which described gender differences in stress among Protestant ministers, was published in Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion (RSSSR 2005).
His doctoral dissertation and now his second published book, From Catholic Priest to Married Protestant Minister: Shepherding in Greener Pastures (Lexington Books 2015), examines the causes and consequences of the dual transition of celibate Catholic priests into married Protestant ministry. A summary of his findings can be found online at America magazine.
His experience before joining CARA in 2008 includes serving as the parochial vicar of Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church in Saddle River, New Jersey, and teaching undergraduate courses in Philosophy and World Religions at Bergen Community College. More recently, he taught for several years a graduate course in Vatican II Theology for the STEPS (Seminary’s Theological Education for Parish Services) Program at Seton Hall University as well as a Ministry of Leadership course for fourth year seminarians.
While studying in Europe for almost twelve years, he learned to speak Spanish and Italian fluently and held various administrative posts including chief financial officer and vice rector of two seminaries. He also taught Latin and Spanish to first-year seminarians.
At CARA, Father Stephen has continued to specialize in clergy research, placing his sociological skills at the service of the Roman Catholic Church. In coordination with the National Organization for Continuing Education for Roman Catholic Clergy (NOCERCC), he has worked on several Cultivating Unity projects for dioceses throughout the United States. Father Stephen is also the co-author of the book, Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood since Vatican II (Liturgical Press 2012), in which 900 men discuss their priestly lives and ministry in the United States.
Father Stephen’s latest book is Catholic Bishops in the United States: Church Leadership in the Third Millennium (Oxford University Press 2019) is based on a nationwide comprehensive study on Catholic bishops in America. His co authors are Father Thomas Gaunt, SJ, Sister Catherine Hoegeman, and Dr. Paul Perl.
Finally, Father Stephen is the co-developer of the PeaceQuest iTunes app, which is a 3D immersive experience based on the Jesuit “composition of place” style of prayer.