“Have You Seen My Brother?” Book Chronicles the Life, Tragic Accident and Devotion of the Late Reverend Stephen Popovich

The late and beloved Father Stephen Popovich served the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown for more than 40 years and was called the epitome of faith by his sister Margie Cretella. He was serving at Saint Paul’s parish in New Middletown in 2013, but everything changed when a car accident left him paralyzed. Over the years Cretella, a former preschool teacher, chronicled her brother’s story and just released her first book, a collection of short stories titled “Have You Seen My Brother?” 

“I’d write, go visit him and come home and write some more. And I realized there was just a lot to say and I was really kind of just journaling. Put it in God’s hands and I said it’s a good story about you, Lord. I would love you to share it to let everybody know what you did for us, for my whole life, especially in the last 10 years,” says Margie Cretella. 

Youngstown native Margie Cretella began compiling memories and short stories about her brother, long time Mahoning Valley pastor Father Stephen Popovich, about a year before his passing in January. 

She, and her husband Mike wanted to do something to keep his memory alive for generations to come, and convey how Father Popovich lived life to its fullest in his 69 years on earth, leading by example.

Margie says despite his challenges over the last decade, her brother taught her the true meaning of faith and the goodness of God.

“I asked Mike one day, what do you miss the most about him? And everything he mentioned was before the accident. And I said you know Mike, I miss him more as he was now. And he would say why? And I said, ’cause I learned so much from him. I learned more about love, life, family and faith in God that I didn’t know when I was seven years old and I thought I knew it all,” says Margie Cretella. 

“She kept everything in her for 10 years, from the day of the accident, up until she started writing. And I think it was therapeutic for her. I think she needed to do it. Because you can’t keep that type of emotions cooped up in you for that many years without having a negative effect on you,” says Mike Cretella. 

Retired Diocese of Youngstown priest, Father Edward Noga and Father Popovich were in the seminary together and friends for decades. And after his injury, it was Father Noga who took over Father Popovich’s prison ministry.

“He loved being a priest and it showed,” says Father Edward Noga. 

The long-time former pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Youngstown says Father Popovich was a man who loved being a “connector,” when it came to people and faith—and he harnessed his inner strength to persevere after the accident.

“Our internal being I think and the strength of who we are as people, mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally, helps us realize that there is a bigger picture. It might not be too easy to decipher sometimes, but there is a bigger picture. He seemed to live that,” says Father Noga. 

Father Popovich made his home at Windsor House Healthcare Center in Liberty until his passing. There he continued to live out his mission and serve others—leaving a profound impact for residents and employees alike.

“Maybe it was that I was supposed to be there to meet him. It was just a wonderful time. Pre-covid was amazing because we really interacted a lot more,” says Windsor House Concierge Georgianne Latcheran. 

One of his nurses, Debbie McCoy says aqua therapy was always tough for both the staff and Father Popovich, but he always kept a positive attitude. She can remember sharing a moment with Father watching an episode of The Chosen, where Jesus heals a paralytic man.

“Jesus came in and said, pick up your mat, stand up and walk. And he did. You can just see Father tearing up, and was so happy for that man. And I think he also wanted that to happen to him,” says McCoy. 

Margie says she didn’t want her brother’s legacy of 40 plus years of devotion to God in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to be defined by his accident. Reflecting back, she believes Father Popovich was the right person to bear this cross. 

“I think God kind of chose him for this kind of to happen, if it was going to happen to somebody, let it be him because he would be able to keep up his legacy of his ministry and be so proud of being a priest instead of giving up and you know, saying I’m done with this, I’m done with God, I’m done with the church. And I think I owed it to the Lord. Like, you have blessed me, you have taken care of us through this tragedy, and I wanted to make him proud of me. So I wanted to write about him, and it’s what I did,” says Margie Cretella.

“Have You Seen My Brother? Discovering That God Is Good Even in Tragedy” is available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple iTunes store. 

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Dennis Biviano

Dennis Biviano serves as the Public Relations and Media Specialist for the Diocese of Youngstown as the diocese’s chief point of contact with journalists. Biviano brings 20 years of TV News reporting experience to the Communications Department. He is a graduate of John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren and Kent State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism. He has worked as a Multimedia Journalist in the Mahoning Valley for WKBN & WYTV, as well as Charter Communications (Spectrum News 1) for seven years. Biviano is an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Niles with his family.
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