Fr. Stephen J. Fichter, Ph.D.
Besides serving as a CARA research associate, Father Stephen is the Pastor of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He 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. While studying in Europe for almost twelve years, he learned to speak Spanish and Italian, and held various administrative posts including chief financial officer and vice rector of two seminaries.
Following in the footsteps of his well-known granduncle, the Jesuit scholar Joseph Fichter, Stephen’s research interests cover all issues related to the sociology of religion, especially those that focus on clergy. His social work thesis, which described gender differences in stress among Protestant ministers, was published in Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion.
His doctoral dissertation and book, From Celibate Catholic Priests to Married Protestant Ministers: Shepherding in Greener Pastures, 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. The book was published by Lexington Books during the summer of 2015.
Before joining CARA in 2008, Stephen served as parochial vicar of Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church in Saddle River, New Jersey. Also, in 2008, he became pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Haworth, New Jersey. He taught undergraduate courses in Philosophy and World Religions at Bergen Community College, a graduate course based on the documents of Vatican II for the STEPS Program at Seton Hall University, and a Ministry of Leadership course for fourth-year seminarians at Immaculate Conception Seminary. From 2016-2017, he was a visiting scholar in the Graduate School for Religion and Religious Education at Fordham, University.
At CARA, Father Stephen has specialized in clergy research, placing his sociological skills at the service of the Catholic Church and the American bishops. 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 the co-author with CARA researchers Mary Gautier and Paul Perl of the book, Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood since Vatican II, published by Liturgical Press. In addition, he is the co-author with CARA researchers Thomas Gaunt, Catherine Hoegeman, and Paul Perl of the book, Catholic Bishops in the United States: Church Leadership in the Third Millennium, published by Oxford University Press in 2019.
He is the co-developer of the iTunes app entitled PeaceQuest, a 3-D immersive prayer experience based on Saint Ignatius’s “composition of place” style of meditation.