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DORCHESTER -- For the past 24 years, Stephen Clegg has worked tirelessly, instructing children in the faith.
With no children of his own -- he never married -- Clegg sees the need to pass the faith on to the next generation.
“We are fighting a real battle, against secularism,” he declared.
“Secularism has made great inroads in our society. It’s almost like there’s no room left for religion. Society doesn’t want religion. Society doesn’t want firm beliefs. But it’s up to us to keep it alive,” he stressed.
“When I’m teaching, I always think, ‘Yes, you’re teaching religion, but you are also planting seeds’ -- And I hope that these seeds will bear fruit in those young people,” he said.
In fact, in his 71 years, Clegg has seen his Dorchester neighborhood change radically. Children now have to face gruesome realities such as drive-by shootings and violence in their neighborhoods, he said.
Rather than dishearten him, or cause him to question his faith, the changes in society have actually helped Clegg remain full of zeal. In addition to teaching religious education, he is also a member of the parish council, a lector and a member of the choir.
Clegg praised his pastor, Father Thomas Foley who became pastor at St. Ann’s after his former parish, Immaculate Conception Parish in Winchester, was closed during reconfiguration.
“He is a wonderful pastor,” he said, adding “we have a beautiful church here. We’ve always had good pastors, and great people.”
According to Clegg, under Father Foley’s leadership, the parish has begun to teach the theology of the body, presented by speaker and author Christopher West on video. Every Monday evening, parishioners are instructed in Pope John Paul II’s teachings on the theology of the body.
“The theology of the body is a superb teaching. It has opened the eyes of the people who attend,” he said.
Baptized at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Clegg attended religious education at St. Ann’s as a child, and has always been a parishioner there. He fondly recalled participating in the CYO program as a child, and later becoming a member of the St. Ann Players, and later the Neponset Players, a group of amateur actors who put on theatrical productions at St. Ann’s from 1974 until 1999.
“A lot of us [the Neponset Players] look back on those days with fondness -- it was good, clean fun. If they could revive that, it would be wonderful, especially for the young people of the parish.”
Clegg said his faith is what has always kept him strong.
“My faith is the only thing that gives me firm purpose and meaning in my life. I don’t think life would be worth living without it,” he remarked.
“I really feel sorry for people who don’t have faith, because then life becomes the world and you keep running and running, but for what? There is so much richness to life that is missing if you don’t have religion,” he added.