In Memoriam: Paulist Fr. Louis Francis McKernan (1927-2015)

September 9, 2015

Born: October 22, 1927
First Profession: September 8, 1948
Ordained: May 1, 1954
Died: September 6, 2015

Father Louis Francis McKernan, C.S.P., former pastor, campus minister, seminary educator, and assistant editor of The Catholic World, died September 6 at the Mary Manning Walsh Residence in Manhattan, New York City, after a long illness. He was 87.

A Washington D.C. native, Fr. McKernan joined the Paulist Fathers novitiate in 1947 after his graduation from Georgetown Prep. Ordained May 1, 1954, Fr. McKernan served in a variety of Paulist Fathers ministries. His first assignment was as associate pastor at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Northern Manhattan. The next year he shifted gears and taught Paulist seminarians at St. Peter’s College, the Paulist Junior Seminary, in Baltimore.

After serving as a campus minister in Berkeley and Boston, Father McKernan returned to New York City, serving on the staff at The Catholic World, a Catholic magazine begun by Paulist Founder and Servant of God Father Isaac Hecker, from 1957-61, before entering further graduate studies at Columbia University. He then returned to The Catholic World before heading to St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C. for graduate studies before serving as coordinator of St. Paul’s from 1971-75.

Make a gift in memory of Fr. McKernan In 1975, he was appointed founding pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in North Pole, Alaska. He received much satisfaction during his pastorate, building the Church and the worshipping community. He assisted as chaplain at nearby Eielson A.F.B as well as chaplain to those working on the trans-Alaska pipeline. He then moved to San Francisco to join the staff at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral as an associate pastor. It was here that he was introduced to his ministry to people with AIDS. It was the early years of the epidemic when few services were available. He remarked how much people with AIDS and those working in the AIDS field taught him about death and dying. His work in pastoral care and counseling would continue until his retirement.

Fr. McKernan had a long and full life. When Cardinal Timothy Dolan visited him recently he asked if Father Lou knew Paulist Founder Fr. Isaac Hecker personally. It was a moment Fr. Lou would never forget. Through it all, Father McKernan was grateful for all the people he encountered in his ministry and was especially grateful for the Paulists and life long friends who reached out to him at Mary Manning Walsh Home these last two years. A Funeral Mass will be offered on September 12, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, the Mother Church of the Paulist Fathers.

Internment will follow at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oak Ridge, NJ, near Mt. Paul, where Fr. Lou McKernan entered the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle as a novice. Memorial Donations may be made to the Paulist Fathers online or by mail, at 415 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019.