Joseph Kenna: 'Nothing Like a Lightning Bolt'

What prompted Deacon Joseph R. Kenna to the priesthood was nothing like a lightning bolt or any major event, but just a solid religious foundation from his parents and family. "My vocation followed from attending daily Mass and a daily prayer life and asking God about His will for me," said Kenna, 35,who studied at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. "I am just following God's plan for me. I know that this is what He wants me to do and I know He knows best. This is what will bring true happiness to me and the others that I serve as a priest, happiness that only He can provide." Kenna was born to Edward and Dorothy Kenna on May 10, 1964. "My family, parents, five brothers and three sisters, has supported me in my decision 100 percent," Kenna said. "They were probably a little shocked because I was on the quiet side and mathematically oriented. But my parents would not have minded to have all their sons become priests and all of their daughters to become sisters." In 1989, Kenna earned a bachelor's degree in math and economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to that he studied at Christendom College and at the Community College of Allegheny County. Kenna knows well what kind of priest he would like to become. "First of all a holy and prayerful priest, which creates a closeness to the Lord to know Him personally so that as a friend of Jesus He will, as a good friend always does and knows how to do, provide me with the graces that I will need to serve His people," he said. "Second, a kind and generous and caring priest, an imitation of Jesus." Kenna expects many challenges as a priest. "Everything, from saying Mass in front of lots of people, to hearing confessions of numerous people with each one being different than the last one, to making hospital and nursing home visits to dying people and their asking me to help them make a decision on whether to pull the plug or not, to dealing with children growing up without any idea about God and what it means to be loved or to love." Kenna expects that the reward for being a priest is going to be "everything. "Just being a priest of Jesus Christ is reward enough for me and letting Him and the Holy Spirit work through me as Their instrument," he said. Kenna served as an acolyte at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington in 1987 and as a deacon at St. John Parish in McLean in 1998 and 1999. "It has been a good year to get a taste of the ministerial life of the clergy," he said. "As a deacon I was able to read the Gospel and preach about it, baptize children, do a little bit of marriage prep, assist at Mass, as well as other ministries, like visit the home-bound and nursing homes and teach a little. This all was a good preparation for the priesthood, a good step to becoming a priest."

Copyright ?1999 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1999