Message from the Pastor
From The Pastor's Desk
When you walk into our parish’s McKenna Hall for a meeting or after a Sunday mass, you may notice the quotations inscribed on the walls. On such occasions you may wonder, “Who was Fr. Horace McKenna who once spoke these words, and why did the parish name the hall after him?” This past Wednesday, in St. Ignatius Chapel, we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the death of this amazing Jesus with a Mass and a sharing of some “Horace stories.” There are many of them!
One popular story is what happened at Horace’s Baptism. You see, when his parents, Laura and Charles McKenna on a freezing New York City day on January 2, 1899, brought their sixth child to be baptized at Holy Name Parish, they informed the officiating priest that they wanted their son to be called Horace. Responding to their request the priest exclaimed, “But there is no Saint Horace,” to which his father replied, “But Father, there will be.”
At the time of his death Horace served as my confessor when I was a Jesuit scholastic teaching religion at Gonzaga High School. During the summer of 1981, I worked with Horace at the St. Vincent DePaul Center attached to Gonzaga. I did not do much - I simply distributed the sandwiches and Gatorade at lunchtime to the several dozen homeless men. Horace, however, did quite a lot for the homeless men as well as serve as a witness of Christ’s compassionate presence for all of us who served the poor with him.
Horace entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1916, shortly after graduating from Fordham Prepetory School. Following his novitiate and early scholastic studies, he was sent in 1921 to the Philippines where he was first moved by the desperate plight of the Filipino poor. A few years later, when he was ordained on June 23, 1929, he asked to be sent to the poor parishes of Southern Maryland. There, he not only encountered poverty, but also racial segregation and injustices. Under the mentorship of the noted Jesuit, Father John Lafarge, Horace’s heart was thereby stirred toward actions of linking faith and justice. Horace labored for 22 years in the various parishes of Southern Maryland. His subsequent pastoral ministries took him north to St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish from 1953 to 1958, and then from 1958 to 1964 he worked as the associate pastor of the Gesu in North Philadelphia. Horace returned to St. Al’s in 1964, and it was there that he gained greater prominence on behalf of the racial and social justice cause.
Today, 40 years after his death, the legacy of Fr. Horace McKenna lives on, not only through the lives of the people for whom and with whom he served so compassionately, but also in the organizations he helped found, such as So Others Might Eat (SOME); Martha’s Table, a soup kitchen and child education center; and the House of Ruth, a center for homeless women. Last but not least his presence is still felt in the vibrant service center for the poor that bears his name, The Father Horace McKenna Center.