In February 1959, Patrick Kennedy joined with a number of young recruits beginning their formation for the priesthood at St Columba’s College, Springwood, New South Wales. Pat had been a Marist Brother as a missionary in Samoa. As time went on, he felt the call to be a priest, believing he could be more effective in spreading the Gospel in that role.
These days, it is a reasonably seamless transition from being a religious brother to becoming a priest. Not so in those times. In more recent times, Pat told me that he had to be dispensed from his vows and begin again. I should add that one of Pat’s brothers was a Marist Father, and the other a Marist Brother.
There were a number of “late vocations” in our seminary class, one just a year younger than Pat, but the majority were people like myself, just out of school. No allowance was made for Pat’s previous experience and training, but he took it all in good part.
One of our classmates has written since Pat’s death of just one example of him being a “big brother” to us
younger classmates. Our young seminary companion had received news of a death. He sought and was
given help from Pat in writing a letter of sympathy.
In our Springwood days, Pat carried on a successful bee enterprise. He was ably assisted by a number of
younger classmates, with the hives producing much appreciated honey. All went well most of the time, until on one occasion, the bees swarmed. While we were sitting in class, we were distracted by the bees attacking Father (later Cardinal) Edward Clancy. It caused great mirth to the students but the Dean of Discipline was not amused.
We had holidays twice a year, but travel between Australia and New Zealand was not as easy as it is these
days, and Pat was not able to get home very often. However, he was “adopted” by many Aussie families
who made him most welcome.
After three years at Springwood in the Blue Mountains, we moved to St Patrick’s College in Manly. We had a swimming pool there and Pat used some of his previous skills to conduct a life-saving course, which resulted in a bronze medallion for the successful graduates. Throughout all this, Pat and the rest of us laboured along with the “main game”: the study of theology, sacred scripture, Church history, canon
law, and associated subjects. Most important, of course, was our spiritual formation. Learning to pray, daily Mass, spiritual reading, and regular retreats were very much part of our formation. Even though Pat was well versed in all this, he was always open to God calling him further.
Pat was ordained to the priesthood in Christchurch on 17 July 1965, while many of the rest of us were ordained in Australia, either on that day or a little later.
A number of years after ordination and serving in Samoa, Pat decided that there were sufficient native born Samoan clergy and it was more appropriate for them to minister to their own people. He then returned to his home diocese of Christchurch, having grown up in Greymouth.
Pat and I developed a close bond in our student days, but more so in the years after ordination. Along with several of our classmates, I made a number of visits to New Zealand to catch up with Pat. He had come to Australia during his time in Samoa, appealing for funds for the Church there. I was a curate in St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra, where Pat’s oratory and deep convictions resulted in the parishioners responding generously, far beyond Pat’s hopes.
A number of us classmates visited Pat in New Zealand on different jaunts. I remember a particularly fun
time a big group of us had with him in Fairlie. Later, he had a very fruitful time in the chapel in the city centre of Christchurch. It was a place where people could drop in at lunch-time for a mid-day Mass, for confessions, and spiritual direction.
When Pat “retired” to Methven, he continued to help out with Masses, and used to say a daily Mass in his
home. I was privileged to be part of some of that ministry on my holidays.
When Pat moved into care at Christchurch, another class-mate, Bob Stephens, and I were kindly invited by
the Sisters to stay in the newly minted home for a few days. It was great to see Pat so beautifully cared for.
I used to tell Pat that I would come to New Zealand for his funeral, but he absolved me from that some time ago. I accept his release from the promise, as I realise that the travel is beyond me. I tried to ring him at least once a month. The last time I rang was only about a week before his death and he was clearly struggling. So when his devoted niece, Eileen, rang me to tell me of his death, I couldn’t feel sad, but thanked God for calling him home. Pat died just before the Feast of Our Lady’s assumption into heaven. I don’t think it is presumptuous to say that Pat is now enjoying the company of Our Lady and all the angels and saints in the kingdom of heaven.
May Father Patrick Kennedy rest in peace
(Bishop) Pat Power
Canberra, Australia, 16 August 2022