Published September 7, 2017
ATLANTA—Father John Kieran celebrated multiple blessings this year as he reached his 50th anniversary of priesthood and his 80th birthday. At a jubilee Mass on Saturday, June 10, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, a congregation of many of his past parishioners, friends and family members from Ireland filled the church to remember and join in his expression of gratitude.
“It is a fabulous blessing to have had the opportunity, and health, to do priestly work for 50 years. I thank my Jesus, and I thank you, for helping me make that happen,” Father Kieran said.
A native of Dublin, Ireland, he joined his brother, the late Father Richard Kieran, serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and was ordained June 18, 1967. His pastorates have included St. Joseph in Dalton, St. Philip Benizi in Jonesboro, Christ Our Hope in Lithonia, a parish he founded, and St. Peter Church in LaGrange and its mission of St. Elizabeth Seton in Warm Springs, where he oversaw the building of the first Catholic church in Meriwether County. His last pastorate was at St. Pius X Church in Conyers. In addition he actively worked with Catholic Engaged Encounter for many years and served as Scout chaplain of the archdiocese for more than two decades. He has fostered ecumenical endeavors in the cities and counties where he has been a pastor. His zeal for parish involvement in parts of the world where life is most desperate led to twinning with Haiti parishes by St. Pius X and Christ Our Hope parishes.
Raising support for Visitation Clinic in Haiti, a small hospital that serves an area of 300,000 people, was his jubilee project. He serves on the board of directors.
A senior priest, Father Kieran is a chaplain at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center and also assists in the celebration of Mass and other sacraments as needed.
In his homily at his jubilee he said, “I jubilantly give thanks to Jesus for every sacramental encounter. His grace alone transforms. He used me as his ‘conduit’ to convey the grace of consecration, sanctification, blessing, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, love and joy … many, many times. Thank you, Jesus.”
Entering the seminary at 22 was considered a late vocation then, he said, and it was difficult for him to “make the grade” in seminary.
Yet, he concluded, “God has so loved me … and allowed me extraordinary opportunities to serve in the priesthood.”
The large congregation, which included his brother and sister-in-law, Brian and Anne Kieran, his sister, Poona McNally, his niece, Jennifer Jensma, and his sister-in-law, Rosemary Kieran, gave him a standing ovation at the end of Mass.
Afterward, a reception with a buffet dinner and two celebratory cakes continued the celebration in the parish social hall.