Fr. Culkin Remembered as Friend to Youth

VIENNA — Father J. Stewart Culkin, former pastor of St. Mark Parish in Vienna, died Oct. 27 at Georgetown University Hospital after a brief illness. He was 58. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde was the celebrant at the funeral Mass Oct. 30 at St. Mark Church. Most Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, superior general of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, was the homilist. Father Culkin was pastor of St. Mark Parish from 1992 until earlier this year when he was granted a leave of absence. "Father Culkin identified himself with what it means to be a priest," said Father Fiorelli. "He spoke to people’s ‘better angels,’ never through force or unkind words. He was never their judge, but always their counselor and pastor. In all his relationships he was a good disciple of the Lord." In the horror and darkness since the tragedy of Sept. 11, "the miracle of this good man’s life shines out in brightness," Father Fiorelli said. Bishop Loverde read a letter of sympathy from Bishop Charles H. DuFour from the Diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica. St. Mark’s has generously supported missionary projects in this diocese for many years. Bishop Loverde also announced that Father Gerry Creedon, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Arlington, has established an educational foundation at the parish in Father Culkin’s memory. "Arlington lost a wonderful priest in the passing of Father Culkin," said Rob Tessier, former youth minister at St. Mark's. "I have never known a pastor who was truly more connected to the needs of his flock. "He had tremendous compassion for all people," said Tessier, who now works as youth minister at All Saints Parish in Manassas. "His desire was to serve. The priesthood was at the core of his definition." Tessier said Father Culkin valued the gifts of his flock and encouraged them to grow. "In particular, Father Culkin had a heart for young people. He recognized the young not only as the Church of tomorrow, but most especially as the church of today. He wanted the parish to be welcoming and inviting to youth." Father Culkin invested in two full-time youth ministers, reaching out to junior high, high school, college and young adult groups. "These groups have grown to become integral parts of the parish, sharing in its life and ministry," Tessier said. Father Culkin was a great supporter of Youth Apostles, an association of the Christian faithful in Arlington and Fall River, Tessier said. He valued the community and went to Dr. Eduardo Azcarate, the community's director, whenever he needed help in youth ministry. Stewart Culkin was born in Scranton, Pa., on July 9, 1943, one of six children of Stewart and Marion Culkin. He graduated from LaSalle High School in Amandale, Md., in 1961, and received a bachelor’s degree in English education from LaSalle College in Philadelphia in 1966. He holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland, and graduated from the Theological College Seminary of Catholic University. A member of the Christian Brothers, Father Culkin taught at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington for two years before being ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John J. Russell of Richmond on May 15, 1971. He served as associate pastor of St. Therese Parish in Portsmouth; Queen of Apostles in Alexandria; St. Mark in Vienna; and St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington. He served as pastor of St. Charles from 1981-86; St. Luke Parish in McLean, 1986-92; and St. Mark Parish, 1992-2001. Father Culkin has also served on the Arlington Diocesan Personnel Committee, the Executive Committee of the Priests’ Council; as chairman of the Religious Education Committee; diocesan consultor; and diocesan judge. He is survived by two brothers, Michael Culkin, of Mountain Top, Pa., and Frank Culkin of Allenwood, N.J.; and three sisters, Isabel Balli of Hazleton, Pa., Irene Fotta of Scranton, Pa., and Mary DiPerna, of Richmond. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to: St. Mark’s Christian Formation Center, 9970 Vale Rd., Vienna, Va. 22181; or the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, Oblates Development Office, 1020 West 18th St., Suite 1, Wilmington, Del., 19802. Contributing to this report was Clare Lazzuri.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001