By CINDY CONNELL PALMER, Special To The Bulletin | Published August 16, 2012
Claretian Father Greg Kenny, pastor-emeritus of Corpus Christi Church, was recently honored by his parish family at a Mass on Aug. 4 as he reached a dual milestone: 20 years of ministry at the Stone Mountain parish and 80 years of life.
The active priest, who is known for his regular treks up nearby Stone Mountain, came to the parish as pastor in 1992 when he was 60 years old. He was pleasantly surprised when he arrived to find an active body of parishioners who clearly cared about their church family.
It was clear in the beginning that people had ownership in the parish. The laity are involved and active, he said.
Building on the church’s diverse body of parishioners, which represents many regions around the world, Father Kenny supported an international day to celebrate the parish’s unique melting pot of cultures, one of many events that show his love for parishioner involvement in church activities.
Father Kenny has always encouraged and supported the parishioners and their immersion in parish life, as depicted by the church’s altar, which was designed and built by parishioners, and the baptismal font, which was also fashioned by a parishioner.
Now serving as a parochial vicar at the parish, his 80th birthday gave him an opportunity to reflect on his life and ministry during the last several decades.
The third son of four, born to Irish immigrants, Father Kenny grew up in the Chicago area with his parents and siblings. A priest for over 50 years, Father Kenny first began discerning a vocation to the priesthood at the age of 13 when a priest came to his school to talk about the Claretian congregation.
So, at 13, he went to a seminary high school. His father looked at the daily schedule, with a 6 a.m. wake-up call, and said, “I’ll give you one week.”
After high school, Father Kenny entered a Claretian seminary in California where he studied for seven years, followed by college, post-graduate study for four years, a year of novitiate and then his doctorate.
He describes the Claretian order as friendly and hospitable, but also notes that he was drawn to their missionary work, an aspect of the Catholic faith that intrigued him from a young age.
Father Kenny’s work with the Claretians has led him down many paths, from serving as an auxiliary chaplain at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and as a hospital chaplain in Illinois, to a teacher at the college level, including positions at Fordham University and Adelphi University in New York.
But his 20 years spent at the DeKalb County parish have allowed him to become part of a church family that has celebrated and embraced his caring and encouraging attitude toward ministry.
He spoke of many life-giving ministries, including the senior citizens, St. Vincent de Paul, a wonderful youth basketball program, a preschool that serves the whole community year round, many choirs, Scouts, and a theater ministry.
Reflecting on his years at the parish, he remembers a financial drive made in his first four years to renovate the facilities. The goal was $750,000 and $850,000 was raised in the first year. The building committee chairman, Rick Nerone, was asked in an interview why he was taking on the large task and he said, “This is my church. This is my house. This is my family.”
Father Kenny liked his words so much he had stone work done, placing the words above the main doors to the church.
In his eightieth year, he enjoys his continuing celebration of the sacraments with his parish, as well as his regular treks up Stone Mountain.