Fr. Philip Kennedy at his retirement gathering as he steps down as president of Catholic Missions In Canada, Aug. 31. Photo by Michael Swan

Kennedy will never be far from Catholic Missions

  • September 7, 2016

TORONTO – “Keep the missions safe,” Fr. Philip J. Kennedy told the staff of Catholic Missions In Canada as he ended his 10-year mission as president.

As Catholic Missions staff and friends from the Archdiocese of Toronto gathered together on Aug. 30 to celebrate Kennedy as he enters retirement, he reminded them that work for the missions is never done.

“Whether it’s a fire in a church or some flood or disaster or some parish in a far distant area that really needs help, it’s good to be able to come to the aid of the priests and the bishops and missionaries,” said Kennedy.

Catholic Missions helps to sustain and extend the Catholic faith in more than 600 isolated, poor and hard-to-reach communities in Canada. The organization’s fundraising support provides mission parishes with the resources for daily building maintenance, travel needs of missionaries, First Nations ministries, catechism programs and the education of seminarians.

Kennedy said his real job as president at Catholic Missions has always been to make it easy for the bishops and priests to continue their ministry in these small communities.

Kennedy said that for Fr. David Reilander, his successor, the most important job will be to make the organization’s presence known in these remote areas so that the people know they are being supported.

The challenge, however, is to help these communities become more self-sustaining. Kennedy said this is especially true for First Nations communities. He said the work of Catholic Missions seems limited compared to what needs to be done to help fulfill the recommendations outlined in last year’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee report.

“They need to do things for themselves,” he said. “That’s a big challenge for us, to learn to step back and let them take responsibility.”

During his tenure leading Catholic Missions, Kennedy would spend most of his year travelling to the missions to meet with the communities face-to-face.

“Most of them are very happy with what Catholic Missions is doing. They’re always happy to see me,” he said.

Anne Hanley, Catholic Missions’ communications officer, said Kennedy’s devotion to the missions and its donors inspires the staff every day.

“Every morning, we offer morning prayer... his first two prayers every morning are for the missionaries and for the donors,” said Hanley.

“His devotion to them is so personal and heartfelt.”

Many of the staff at Catholic Missions has been working with Kennedy since he was first appointed in 2006. They have grown with him and seen his devotion to his work.

“He is always telling us stories about the missions,” said Patria Rivera, director of publications and communications. “He has always inspired us to work harder and to focus our strengths on making the job not only a job, but part of our vocation.”

In recent years, Kennedy’s health has been declining, but his dedication to the missions never wavered. In 2014, Kennedy was hospitalized for three weeks. Even on bed rest, he would call into the office to ask staff to bring him papers to work on.

“He always wanted to be here at work,” said Rivera. “It didn’t take that long for him to get back on his feet and he wanted to get back on his feet right away. He was not one for moping around and doing nothing.”

Kennedy always brought a positive energy to the office environment. Rivera said everyone in the office will miss his dry wit.

Moving forward, Kennedy said he will still be around the organization. Even as he settles into a parish in the Archdiocese of Toronto, he sees himself visiting the office every now and then.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.