Father Stevens served in many roles during 64-year priesthood
September 1, 2020
Father Clifford Stevens, a teacher, author, military chaplain, advocate for youth and founder of Tintern Monastery (which later became Tintern Retreat and Resource Center) near Oakdale, died Aug. 29. He was 94.
A funeral Mass was held Sept. 3 at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, with interment at Calvary Cemetery, both in Omaha.
A native of Brattleboro, Vermont, he graduated from Omaha’s Boys Town, where he was influenced by its founder and leader, Father Edward Flanagan (now recognized by the Church as Servant of God), leading to Father Stevens’ vocation and commitment to serving youth.
He attended Creighton University in Omaha and Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri. He also studied with the Trappist monks at New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, which laid the foundation for his eventual attraction to monastic life.
Father Stevens was ordained a priest in 1956 by Archbishop Gerald T. Bergan.
He served as assistant pastor at St. Rose and St. Bernard parishes in Omaha before becoming a U.S. Air Force chaplain in 1961.
In 1968, Father Stevens became editor of The Priest Magazine, published by Our Sunday Visitor. He also founded his own magazine, Schema 13: The Priest in the Modern World, which he published from 1969 to 1971.
Father Stevens was named administrator of St. Stanislaus Parish in Duncan in 1971, and became pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Neligh and St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater in 1976. He was named pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tilden in 1981.
He also taught at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Elgin, and developed several religious education programs for children.
During his priesthood, Father Stevens became a prolific author, writing several books for youth and works about Father Flanagan.
“He was a really fine author … and a brilliant theologian,” said retired Father Donald Shane, longtime friend of Father Stevens and homilist at his funeral Mass.
“First and foremost, he was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s love,” Father Shane said, “and was deeply attracted to deepening the relationship with God … and everything he did as a priest flowed from that.”
In 1984, Father Stevens began work to establish a monastic order, the Monks of Tintern and built a monastery south of Oakdale in Antelope County. Although the enterprise eventually folded due to Father Stevens’ health issues, the property was later purchased by an investor group to establish Tintern Retreat and Resource Center, with activities primarily directed toward youth. The center continues operating today.
Father Stevens, who retired in 1997, was awarded that same year with the Distinguished Service Award by Boys Town in recognition of his service to youth.
He was preceded in death by parents, Clarence and Agnes G. (Murray) Stevens; brothers, Clarence F. Stevens, Jr. and Louis Stevens; Paul Crawley; and sisters, Agnes Castle, Ellen Grant, Theresa Greenwood, Ruth Stevens, Marguerite Gowell and Joan Bassett. Father Stevens is survived by nieces, nephews, close friends and fellow priests in the Archdiocese of Omaha.