A standing room only crowd filled Our Lady of the Rosary Church on Wednesday to remember and celebrate the life of Fr. Stephen Schenck who .
Local dignitaries and clergymen — including Edward Cardinal Egan, the retired Archbishop of New York — came to pay their respects, as did hundreds of members of the community, many of whom not only were counseled by the pastor but also felt as if they knew him on a very personal level.
"People truly knew Father Steve," said Fr. Tom Ruekert, who gave a memorial reflection to the crowd about Fr. Schenck's life not only as a pastor, but also growing up in nearby Mount Vernon.
"You not only were served by him but you felt a part of his life and he let people know him on a personal level," he added.
The memorial service began a long process to fill a void in the community and as Village Trustee Luis Marino stated, Fr. Schenck loved his work and especially loved the Hispanic community of Port Chester.
"He will be missed tremendously as he worked with so many different ethnic groups within the church and so many youth groups as well that he really was a part of everyday life here in the Village," said Marino.
Fr. Schenck would have turned 60 next week, and had spent the last 32 years of his life ordained as a Salesian priest, dedicating his life to service, especially for the young and those without means.
"His gifts were mixed with humility and self doubt at times, as he often worried about his ministry and if he was doing enough to help those who needed his guidance," recalled Fr. Ruekert, who continued that, "his faith and his family always served to sustain him through his times of doubt."
Father Steve, as most of the youth came to know him by, loved to do everything that they were doing, whether it was riding the rollercoasters at amusement parks or taking in sporting events and shows in Manhattan.
"He was most alive when he was with the youth," proclaimed one member of the community who was being consoled by a group of friends as the crowd of about 400 made their way out of the church, to join in the procession to Fr. Schenck's final resting place at Salesian Cemetery in Goshen.
Charlie Sacco volunteers at the Don Bosco Community Center as a cook and he remembers Father Steve as someone who always knew everybody and always showed kindness and caring.
"The loss of such an important person is definitely going to have a permanent effect on this community but I know the Parish will move on despite the void that will be there," said Sacco.