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Missionary devoted three decades to building faith and churches in Papua New Guinea

 
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Brother Stephen Kerekes, 90, a Divine Word Missionary, died Wednesday, Jan. 24, in Techny, Ill.

The son of Hungarian immigrants, Brother Stephen was born on July 31, 1927, in South Bend, Ind. He was the youngest of Joseph and Elizabeth (nee Radvanyi) Kerekes’s eight children.

As a middle school student, he was inspired by presentations given by two Divine Word Missionaries and decided to entered the Divine Word Seminary at Conesus, N.Y., in 1945.

In 1950, he entered novitiate at Techny and later professed first vows, but after ten years of seminary studies, he joined the Trappist Order. He was admitted to the cloistered life at Our Lady of Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky. During the next nine years, he was assigned to Kentucky and later California, where he became a skilled carpenter and tailor.

In 1964, he returned to the Society of the Divine Word as a brother candidate, worked in the Divine Word vineyards in New York and professed first vows for a third time.

Ready to embrace the life of a missionary for the rest of his days, Brother Stephen professed perpetual vows in 1968 and prepared for his first assignment in Papua New Guinea. After brief stops at Christ the King Seminary in Manila; San Carlos Seminary in Cebu, Philippines; Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan; and Fu Jen University in Taiwan, he arrived in Alexishafen, Papua New Guinea in November of that year.

During his first assignment, he managed St. Joseph Vocational School in Wewak and taught math, religion, carpentry, welding and mechanics. He also assisted in building schools and churches in rural areas.

After eight years in academics, he was transferred to Alexishafen to succeed a German-born brother as harbor master and manager of the Mission Supply Store, which stocked construction and farming goods. He also served as postmaster and later received a medal of service for his 25 years in the Post Office of Alexishafen.

In addition to managing the Mission Supply Store, Brother Stephen supervised the local radio station. He maintained communication with missionaries in the outer regions, coordinated weekly shipments and handled emergency requests.

In his spare time, he became a master clockmaker. He crafted more than 800 clocks, made from various indigenous woods, including ebony, rosewood, kwila and New Guinea walnut. He sold the clocks to support the missions in Alexishafen.

In 2002, Brother Stephen returned to the United States and was assigned to Divine Word Residence in Riverside, Calif., for retirement but continued to serve as sacristan. He moved to Techny in 2014.

Brother Stephen’s wake and funeral took place in the chapel of the Divine Word Residence on Jan. 27. He was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery at Techny, Ill.

Brother Stephen is survived by many nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of elderly and infirmed missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Rd., P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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