Father Patrick J.R. Kennedy, ordained as a “late vocation” at the age of 50, died April 1 at Our Lady of Wisdom Healthcare Center. He was 97 years old, the oldest diocesan priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Father Kennedy was born on Feb. 11, 1920, in Portsmouth, England, to Dr. Arthur P. Kennedy and Frances Margaret Ainslie Kennedy.
He is survived by his brothers, Desmond Cormac Kennedy of England and Charles Aiden Redmond Kennedy of Wales, and his sister Angela Kathleen Spain of Canada.
He was predeceased by his brothers, Michael E. Kennedy of Ireland and John E. Kennedy of Melbourne, Australia.
Father Kennedy studied at the University of Birmingham, England, and at the Universite de Rennes en Bretagne, France.
In the 1960s, he followed his vocation to the priesthood and entered the seminary at Carlow, Ireland, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1970.
In 1995, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary of priesthood, he told the Clarion Herald: “I think I had a call (to the priesthood) when I was 8 or 9 years of age, but the war (WWII) came. I could have gone to Ireland during the war because Ireland was neutral, but I volunteered for the British army.
“When I finished the army, I went to work in England teaching modern languages on the high school level, and the idea of the priesthood kind of got sidetracked. It was many years later that the whole thing came back to me.”
Father Kennedy thanked Archbishop Philip Hannan for accepting him as a candidate for the priesthood.
“I’m a great believer in divine providence, that where a man is and what a man is has a lot to do with the salvation of souls,” he said.
Father Kennedy served at St. Cecilia in New Orleans, St. Joseph Church in Thibodaux, St. Cletus in Gretna, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kenner, Our Lady of Divine Providence in Metairie, Annunciation in New Orleans and St. Patrick in Port Sulphur. He also served as chaplain at West Jefferson Hospital.
After his retirement in 1990, Father Kennedy lived in residence at St. Bonaventure and at St. Anthony in Gretna.
His Funeral Mass was celebrated April 7 at St. Anthony Mission Church in Gretna. He was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.