Fr. Kyran Kennedy was a trustee for Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic schools for 44 years until his retirement earlier this month. Photo courtesy of the Hamilton-Wentworth District Catholic School Board

Fr. Kennedy’s 44-year career as a trustee comes to a close

  • March 21, 2012

March 6 was a day of joyful reflection but also sadness at the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board with the retirement of long-time trustee Fr. Kyran Kennedy.

“His pastoral way of being and living has had a remarkable impact on the way our board conducted itself over the past 44 years,” said board chair Patrick Daly in a press release (included below).

“Generations and generations of students in our secondary school were, are and will be the beneficiaries of his remarkable legacy.”

First elected in 1968 to the then newly amalgamated Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board, Kennedy’s resignation, accepted by trustees “with deep regret and a profound sense of gratitude,” comes in light of growing health concerns for the 85-year-old priest.

“I’m bedridden at the moment. I cannot walk, my legs are too weak, so I wasn’t able to get to meetings,” said Kennedy. “It’s sad but that’s the way it is.”

During this lengthy service Kennedy worked with nearly every committee associated with the board and was chairperson for seven years. In the late 1980s Kennedy was instrumental in securing full funding for Ontario secondary schools, said Daly.

Aside from handling the bureaucracy associated with any educational system, Kennedy also played a pivotal role in the extracurricular activities of the students he served. He directed the Catholic Youth Organization, stressed the importance of volunteer work for students prior to the compulsory 40 hours that are a requirement of students today and is credited with the success of Hamilton’s Cathedral High School basketball teams during the mid-1950s.

“I miss it because I made a lot of good friends and I enjoyed working in the field with both administration and the trustees,” said Kennedy. 

Despite all of this it is not the length of his 44 consecutive years of service, the contributions to internal-school activities or the many crucial education decisions he influenced which Kennedy wishes to stand out as the defining characteristics of his legacy.

“I am first of all a priest and that’s more important than anything else,” said Kennedy, forced to pause to clear his throat.

“I built a new church and I served in a number of parishes. Pastoral work would be high on my list (of greatest accomplishments).”

St. Margaret Mary, Sts. Peter and Paul  and Canadian Martyrs are three parishes that Kennedy served as pastor during the majority of his time with the School board.

Looking back on his years of service, the many accomplishments and countless lives he’s touched, Kennedy had one humble observation.

“I did my best.”

In his letter of resignation to the board Kennedy wrote, “I pray that God will continue to guide you and bless the tremendous gift of publicly funded Catholic education.” 

While the Ward 6 vacancy will be filled by appointment at the board’s April 10 meeting, no timeline for recovery has been established for the void he leaves behind in the community, said Daly.

“It is difficult, at any time, to express words of thanks to a colleague trustee who is leaving the board. It is especially hard to do so for someone who has made such an enormous contribution to the cause of Catholic education in our community,” said Daly.

“Through his goodness and tremendous example, he has taught us what it means to give witness to Jesus Christ. Fr. Kennedy is, above all else, a good and holy pastor.”


You can read Patrick Daly's full tribute to Fr. Kennedy below.


“This is what the Lord requires of you, only this, to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God”.

The words of the Prophet Micah well describe Father Kennedy’s way of serving Catholic education for the past forty-four years.  It is difficult, at any time, to express words of thanks to a colleague Trustee who is leaving the Board. It is especially hard to do so for someone who has made such an enormous contribution to the cause of Catholic education in our community; even more so when that person has provided such wonderful example and has been such an important mentor and dear friend.

Catholic education changed significantly (for the good) in 1968.  First, seven local (small) boards came together and were amalgamated into the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board. Second, Father Kyran Kennedy was first elected to serve the Catholic ratepayers of Ward 6 on the new Board.

Over the next forty-four years, Father Kennedy served on virtually every Board committee. On most of those committees, he was elected Chairperson by his fellow Trustees. For seven years, he served as Chairperson of the Board.

I could speak for hours about Father Kennedy’s contributions to our Board and Catholic education.  Since time will not permit, I will select three:

(i)    Religious Education/Christian Service Programs
As we know, the centre (and reason for being) of Catholic education is Jesus Christ.  At all times, Father Kennedy lived this truth. He worked tirelessly to ensure all of the curriculum in our schools, and very specifically our Religious Education Programs, promoted the Mission of Catholic education. He would read every Religious Education text book to ensure they would assist teachers in passing on the knowledge of our faith to students. He would remind our system of the importance of giving priority of place to the teaching of Religion in the school day.

He was a visionary with respect to the teaching of Religious Education and, in a very special way, our Christian Service Programs. Long before forty hours of community service became popular, Father Kennedy was teaching us the importance of having our students participate in truly Christian Service Programs. He not only wanted our students to participate in Christ’s call to “feed the hungry…etc”, but by his example, he showed us how. Christian Service Programs have been part of our secondary schools for decades as a result of Father Kennedy’s leadership and example. It is impossible to measure the positive impact this has had, and will continue to have, on countless young people, not to mention our Church and community.

(ii)    Bill 30/Burkett Hearings
A second area where Father Kennedy’s efforts have had a profound impact on Catholic education in our community was his leadership throughout the implementation of Bill 30 (late 1980’s). I will be forever grateful to Father Kennedy (for many things) for inviting me (together with a small group of Trustees and administrators) to be part of a team which represented our Board in Bill 30 discussions with the Provincial Government and our co-terminous Board (Burkett Hearings).

I, as well as, the other Trustees and administrators present witnessed Father Kennedy’s commitment, determination and outstanding leadership over those three or four days     of discussions. His keen intellect and tireless work was instrumental in reaching an     agreement which changed the face of Catholic secondary education in Hamilton-    Wentworth.  Generations and generations of students in our secondary schools were,     are and will be the beneficiaries of his remarkable leadership (legacy) during that     important period.

(iii)    Mentoring
The last area I will comment on is Father Kennedy’s ability     to recognize and mentor     those called to serve the cause of Catholic education. He has always been there to     support and encourage staff and his fellow Trustees. He has a remarkable talent for     recognizing and nurturing the gifts within people. Over the past forty-four years, he has     been a     tremendous source of support to those at all levels in our system and at the     provincial level. For all of the right reasons and always in the right way, he served as a     good and strong mentor to countless people. Through his goodness and tremendous     example, he has taught many (us all) what it means to give witness to Jesus Christ.

If time permitted, I could have spoken about numerous other areas where Father     Kennedy has had a significant influence, including the Arts, Libraries, Promotions &     Communications, Pastoral Care and concern for the disadvantaged.

It is important to remember that, while Father Kennedy was giving exemplary service to Catholic education (over the last forty-four years); he was also involved in many other important Catholic ministries. For a number of years, he was a member of the St. Joseph Hospital Board of Directors. (Although it is difficult for any of us to understand how someone could have the ability/strength to do so for a few years, Father Kennedy Chaired the St. Joseph Board and the Board of Trustees at the same time.)

Most importantly, however, for most of his forty-four years as a Trustee, Father Kennedy was the Pastor of three parishes (St. Margaret Mary, Sts. Peter & Paul and Canadian Martyrs’). I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have been with Father when someone would come up to him and say “you married us, or you baptized our children, or you buried my parents”. In the spirit of St. John Vianney, Father Kennedy is, above all else, a good and holy priest. He was that for his parishioners and he was that for our school system. This year Father will be celebrating his 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. His pastoral way of being and living has had a remarkable impact on the way our Board has conducted itself over the past forty-four years.

I would like to close my/our words of appreciation to Father Kennedy by paraphrasing a few sentences of a book I read recently on the life of Pope John Paul II:

‘What was striking about the accomplishment of Father Kennedy was that this unshakeable and distinctively Christian conviction set a reference point for Catholic education in Hamilton-Wentworth because he truly believes that Jesus Christ is the answer to every question that is every human life.’

As I recommend we accept, our colleague and dear friend, Father Kennedy’s letter of resignation with deep regret and profound gratitude, I pray,

‘God will shower him with all of His blessings, and that those involved in Catholic education in any way, but particularly as Trustees, will strive to model Father Kennedy’s good and selfless service.’

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