A Tribute: Xaverian Brother Stephen Comeau

Xaverian Brother Stephen Comeau, executive assistant to the president/CEO of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), passed away peacefully on August 25 at the age of 71 after enduring cancer for more than a year.

Lincoln Snyder, NCEA President/CEO, said, “Brother Stephen’s deep faith, gentle spirit, intelligence and relentless optimism made him an excellent colleague and servant-leader. He put Jesus, mission and others first, and he modeled how to live well and how to die well. He was one of a kind and all of us at NCEA will miss him dearly.”

By the time Brother Steve arrived at NCEA in 2004, he had already given what many would consider a lifetime of service to Catholic education. A native of Old Town, ME, Steve joined the Xaverian Brothers in 1969 and began a 33-year relationship with St. John’s High School, an all-boys school in Shrewsbury, MA. With an average enrollment of 1,000, the Xaverian school serves students in grades 7–12.

A multi-talented renaissance man, Brother Stephen directed musical reviews, chaired the Central Massachusetts Football Committee, worked in campus ministry, taught advanced placement history, served six years as athletic director, nine years as assistant principal and ten years as high school principal.

In his CV, Brother Stephen highlighted his role as creator, producer and director of the school’s spring musical for more than 25 years. Brother Lawrence Harvey, CFX, said that St. John’s annual extravaganza is where Steve’s skills as a showman really got to shine.

Steve concluded each production with a rousing rendition of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Without doubt, Steve’s can-do spirit and confidence that “the show must go on” contributed to his success over the course of his 18 years at NCEA.

“Steve’s talents as a producer and director would serve six presidents, all of whom relied on his dependability, professionalism, expertise and good humor to assist them in their mission. His work and advice were invaluable to them and served the greater mission of Catholic education in the U.S.,” added Brother Lawrence, who served on NCEA‘s Board of Directors for several years.

Michael Guerra, NCEA president from 2003-2007, underscored the contributions of the executive assistant whom he recruited: “Brother Stephen was an extraordinarily competent colleague, an invaluable supporter for me as I’m sure he was for each of the NCEA presidents he served. His respect and kindness for everyone he came in contact with reflected his deep faith in a loving God and his call to share God’s love with others. To say Steve was slow to anger is an understatement. I never saw him angry. When others, myself included, might frown or scowl, he simply smiled. NCEA was blessed to share Brother Stephen with Catholic education for 18 years. He showed us God’s love, God’s patience, and God’s smiling face.”

Michael Guerra also saluted Steve for his outstanding work in coordinating many aspects of the association’s centennial in 2004, celebrating a “Faithful Past, Faith Filled Future.”

Dr. Karen Ristau, who served the association as president from 2007-2013 noted, “Brother Stephen was a great colleague and a good friend. If you didn’t work closely with Stephen and have your eyes wide open, you might miss his quiet kindness. Part of that kindness was that Stephen was completely trustworthy, kept confidences and never said a critical word about anyone.

“Recently we exchanged texts and spoke on the phone. He was proud of his walking mileage or his almost Olympic-like treadmill records. But the time had come when he could no longer live in his weary body and needed to leave for Home. As Stephen cared for us, helped us with our work, laughed with us, quietly steered us in the right direction and kept us out of trouble, he was metaphorically holding our hands. May God hold his now.”

In a tribute on the Xaverian website, it was written that Steve’s faith, coupled with the support of his community and his circle of friends from NCEA gave him the courage and strength in his cancer diagnosis, including enduring two surgeries.

Brother Lawrence added, “Steve was a gifted and talented man on so many levels. Outstanding for me was the care and empathy he would show to everyone, no matter who you were. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a great laugh. I also remember his quiet but deep spirituality that I’m sure sustained him throughout his life.”

Brother Stephen was predeceased by his father Frank and his mother Margaret who died in July at age 100. A celebration of his life was held Thursday, September 1, at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, Maryland.