Passing of Steve Abrams

Steve Abrams died on May 23, 2015, of cancer. There will be a mass in his memory on Saturday, August 29, at noon at St. John the Evangelist Church, 21 S. 13 Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Steve Abrams was born on July 24, 1954, in the West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. A deeply spiritual person, he “exuded love, and he loved everybody,” said his wife of nearly 20 years, Elizabeth (known as Liz) Abrams.

Although he was born Jewish, Steve converted to Catholicism and found his calling in championing the cause of people who are homeless. The short outgoing message he recorded on his cell phone, which Liz now uses, concludes with “Jesus loves you.”

“He would give [homeless] people his coat, give his money away, buy people groceries,” Liz said. She added that, because Steve had a mental health condition and was in and out of hospitals, he feared that he would become homeless; she believes that his activism grew from that fear.

Liz, too, has a mental health condition. “We helped each other,” she said. “He was so thoughtful: Not a day went by that he didn’t say, ‘I love you.’ ”

Both Steve and Liz became lay ministers. They served people at Jefferson University Hospital and the Liberty Court Nursing Home, as well as visiting shut-ins, to whom they carried the Eucharist. Steve also taught religious studies in an after-school program in Upper Darby.

After the couple moved to Delaware County, Steve served as a Eucharistic minister at St. Alice Catholic Church and St. Laurence Parish in Upper Darby, as well as at St. John the Evangelist in Philadelphia.

“He helped so many people,” Liz said. “He would bring homeless people home with him to stay over in bad weather.”

From 1992 to 1998, Steve was the director of the Northeast Philadelphia Consumer Center, operated by the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP). He later worked for MHASP’s Connect program, which serves people in Delaware County who are homeless and who want to rejoin mainstream society.

Steve worked for the Philadelphia School District after graduation from college, and again from 2002 to 2007, as a substitute high school teacher; his subject was mathematics, although he majored in English at Amherst. He spent his junior year at the Sorbonne studying French, which he was able to use in the School District with students from Africa, Haiti and Vietnam, Liz said. He also received a master’s degree in education from Widener University.

Steve enjoyed staying fit and walked three or four miles a day, Liz recalled. He also loved drinking coffee and talking to people.

He is mourned by his wife; his sister, Cynthia Abrams, of Los Angeles; and the many individuals whose lives he touched.

Donations in Steve’s memory may be made to St. John’s Hospice, 1211 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107-1694, or online here; and/or to the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1211 Chestnut Street, 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107, oronline here.

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