In Memoriam: Fr. John Kenny, C.S.P. (1931 – 2017)

October 29, 2017

Paulist Fr. John Kenny in 1958, the year of his ordination as a priest.

With sadness, we announce that our brother, Paulist Fr. John Kenny, passed into eternal life on Sunday morning, October 29, 2017, in Vero Beach, FL.

His Paulist brothers were praying the Rosary in his presence at the time of his death.

Fr. Kenny was 86. He had been a member of the Paulist community for 68 years and a priest for 59 years.

Fr. Kenny was born September 11, 1931, and raised on Chicago’s South Side, the son of John J. Kenny and Catherine Hurley Kenny.  He attended St. Leo’s Grade School (taught by the Sisters of Providence) and Leo High School (under the tutelage of the Irish Christian Brothers).

His family moved to East Rochester, NY, in 1948.

Attracted by the Paulist trailer missions in the southern United States, Fr. Kenny entered our preparatory seminary in Maryland in 1949 at age 18.

He made his first promises to the Paulist community on September 8, 1952.  He made his final promises on September 8, 1955.

Fr. Kenny earned an undergraduate and masters degree from our major seminary, St. Paul’s College.  He also earned a masters degree in French from the University of Maryland.

He was ordained a priest on May 1, 1958, by Cardinal Francis Spellman, archbishop of New York, at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.

Make a gift in memory of Fr. Kenny

In his first assignment, Fr. Kenny served from 1959 to 1966 on the faculty of our preparatory seminary in Maryland, teaching languages.

He served as a Catholic campus minister at Boston University from 1966 to 1970.

From 1970 to 1978, he was director of the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, MI.

He then served as pastor of three university parishes: St. John’s in Morgantown, WV (1978 to 1984); St Thomas Aquinas in Boulder, CO (1984 to 1992); and St. Andrew in Clemson, SC (1993 to 1999).  During these years, he also served as superior of the Paulist Fathers in each city.

In 2000, Fr. Kenny returned to Grand Rapids where he again ministered at the Catholic Information Center and, starting in 2008, at the Cathedral of St. Andrew.

Paulist Fr. John Kenny, right, receiving a first priestly blessing from Paulist Fr. Steven Petroff, left, on May 20, 2017.

In September, 2015, he moved to our senior ministry residence in Vero Beach, FL.

Just two weeks ago, Fr. Kenny was in Grand Rapids for the 70th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, October 14, for the Catholic Information Center. At the event, he expressed his gratefulness to God for his priesthood, saying, “I’d do it all over again! It’s been wonderful!”

Fr. Kenny is preceded in death by his parents and his brothers, Fr. Donald Kenny (who had been priest of Diocese of Joliet, IL) and Thomas Kenny.

In addition to the Paulist Fathers, he is survived by his sister-in-law, Dorothy; his nephews, Richard, Scott, Michael, and Brian; and several great nephews and great nieces.

We pray for our departed brother in the ancient words of the Church:


May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Schedule of Events in Remembrance and Celebration of Paulist Fr. John Kenny:

Thursday, November 2:
Cathedral of St. Andrew, Grand Rapids, MI
10:30 a.m. Memorial Mass, Reception to Follow
Friday, November 3:
Holy Cross Church, Vero Beach, FL
9 a.m. Visitation
10 a.m. Funeral Mass
Transfer to New York City
Sunday, November 5:
Paulist Fathers Motherhouse
415 West 59th St., New York, NY
7 p.m. Wake Service & Visitation in House Chapel
Monday, November 6:
The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, New York, NY
10 a.m. Funeral Mass
Funeral Mass available via Facebook Live
Following the funeral Mass, Fr. Kenny will be buried in the Paulist section of St. Thomas the Apostle Cemetery in Oak Ridge, NJ.
Luncheon in St. Thomas Church Hall.

Fr. Kenny speaks of his vocation in this interview recorded in 2013:


PLAYLIST: Homilies, lectures, and classes given by Fr. Kenny at the Cathedral of St. Andrew and the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, MI:
(Click the icon in the top-left corner of the player to select videos in the playlist.)

Below are photos from Fr. Kenny’s long life. To see several more, please visit this Pinterest board.

A future Paulist Fr. John Kenny at age 18 in 1949 in a photo stapled to his application to our minor seminary.
Paulist Fr. John Kenny in 1969.
Paulist Fr. John Kenny (left) with his brothers, Tom (center) and Fr. Donald Kenny (right), a priest of the Diocese of Joliet, IL. Their mother, Catherine, is seated at front.
Paulist Fr. John Kenny speaking on Saturday, October 14, 2017, at the 70th anniversary celebration for the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, MI.
Paulist Fr. John Kenny visiting with a friend at the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, MI, on October 13, 2017.



Paulist Fr. John Kenny depicted in an embroidery by Paulist Fr. Frank Sabatté