Reverent reverend

The drive to transform neighborhoods, create nonprofits and support close-to-the-heart causes makes these individuals stand out in the eyes of their peers.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Oct. 11, 2012

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Photo by Greg Bezanis

Twenty-four years into his life as a priest, Rev. John Stabeno knows now more than ever the severity of his vocation. As the founder and executive director of the Washington Township, N.J.-based Prodigal House Foundation, the 48-year-old helps sufferers to overpower their addictions, with his often-unfortunate past as his inspiration.

“We’re looking at an epidemic,” the 1982 graduate of the former St. John Neumann High School, 2600 Moore St., said. “There is a great deal of despair, especially among young people, who are lacking a sense of hope.”

Stabeno witnessed a wave of woe in his youth, as numerous friends engaged in substance abuse. He eventually fell prey, too, but readily recovered and returned to his alma mater for two stints as a counselor.

“I have wanted to help people the way I was helped,” the advocate said of his most prominent undertaking, the management of his six-year-old foundation.

Stabeno called on the parable of the prodigal son, in which a shameful young man receives his father’s mercy after squandering his inheritance, as motivation for launching the location, which hosts various groups all intent on saving lives through love, even if it is of the tough variety.

“In some way or another, addiction affects most families, and we have too many great people who are misguided,” the Passyunk Square resident said.

Stabeno, whose outreach also assists local clans and who typically celebrates the Saturday Vigil Mass at Annunciation B.V.M. Church, 1511 S. 10th St., considers hearing success stories his greatest reward in tackling that which strips his fellow children of God of their dignity. He, however, has had to weigh those fortunate revelations against tales of death and dismay.

“Words can barely describe the pain of seeing a family burying a child,” the priest said.

As he believes the division between good and evil is expanding, Stabeno vows to let nobody bow to emptiness.

“I feel humbled to have this honor,” the designee, who hopes to intensify his connection to South Philly through establishing a comfort club for affected families, said. “I just hope more people will realize the responsibility that everyone has to make a difference.”

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

Other 2012 Difference Makers

/ Joe Barbuto / Ella Best / Paul Bryson / Nicole Canale /

/ Jasmaine, Jeannine & Jenielle Cook / Erin Dougherty /

/ Duane Davis / Frank Franzini / Adé Fuqua / Bennie & Hilda Hudson /

/ Ray Innaurato / Ed McBride / Jeannine McGuire / Carrolyn Minggia /

/ Teri Ruiz & Leah Vodila / Jeffrey Rush / Rev. John Stabeno /

/ Marina Stamos / Anne Stanfield-Hagert / Charles Stecker / Megan West /

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Charles J. Stecker Jr. said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:16PM

“Congratulations... "Difference Maker"”

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2. Jim Massimino (south Philly) said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:20PM

“Congrats John,

We Grew Up Together In The Same Neighborhood (S.Philly) and I think You are an Inspiration to all you Meet. Keep up the Great Work and Know That The HIGHER-POWER Is what Makes All This Possible!!!!! But You Know That !! LOL!!!! Your Good Friend Jimmy Mass”

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3. Rita said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:40PM

“Congrats John!!!!! Keep up the great work!”

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4. Jon Rania said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:40PM

“Blessings and accolades to you my friend! Well deserved for sure! Wishing you much success in your continued ministry to those most in need! All the best!”

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5. Sage Smith said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 12:49PM

“Congrats Fr. Stabeno!! I am sure Christopher & Russell are looking down & smiling!!”

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6. Denise Passarella said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 01:31PM

“John you are our angel on earth you are always their when anyone needs you even if its 3:00AM when someone calls, you are on it immediately. I have never met anyone as caring as you are. Keep the faith chain going I still have faith and I lost my son to that horrible disease called addiction. Thank you for all you do you a a very special person that we are blessed with.”

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7. Katherine Staniskis said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 06:22PM

“Father John, without you, my life would be unbearable, I think of you always, knowing you have a few chosen words, you were my son's life, and you are now mine. There is nothing that I would not do for you. You brought sense back into my life, after my downfall. You are amazing, I cannot think of words that describe you, you are THE MAN!”

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8. Michael Romeo said... on Oct 11, 2012 at 09:33PM

“Father John has meant so much to so many of us over the years. He taught me in high school, he gave the blessing at my wedding, and remains a good friend to me and my family. He's one of the good ones.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Oct 12, 2012 at 01:53PM

“Why are you still in Philyy when your Diocese is Camden.You can do the good work where your are needed in South Jersey!!!!”

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10. Anonymous said... on May 7, 2014 at 02:38PM

“Really? How can I reach him? I really need to talk!”

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11. JS' Mom, Michelle said... on Jul 8, 2014 at 02:24AM

“Father John, I can't tell you how much I whole heartedly appreciate all you do for the halfway houses/residents who are hopefully recovering addicts by guiding them in the right directions.This is the best guidance my son has had in his years of addiction. He had 1 good IOP social worker, Rita in FL who helped him stay clean for almost 9 months. Other than that, he came away the same if not worse especially from 1 large corporation that took over many rehabs all over the country. I hope you know how much your work w/ the young adults in both Philly/parts of NJ truly helps and is appreciated by the addicts in recovery and their families.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do, you are an amazing man. I want to find out how I can make a difference, anywhere. Thank you ever so much. I pray my son and others do well w/ sobriety from here on in. They are lucky to have you in their lives as us parents are.

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12. grand pa from glassboro yale home said... on Dec 1, 2014 at 03:48AM



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