Obituary: Father Frank Kennedy, priest and philosopher

Father Frank Kennedy
Father Frank Kennedy
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Born: 7 November, 1946, in Glasgow. Died: 23 May, 2013, in Argentina, aged 66

Former West of Scotland parish priest Father Frank Kennedy has died at the age of 66 in Argentina, to where he had retired last year.

He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, who served in St Ronan’s parish in Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, which was burned down in a wilful fire raising incident last year, and St Michael’s, Parkhead, Glasgow.

He was brought up in Glasgow’s South Side and attended his local secondary school, Holyrood, before studying for the priesthood in the Scots College, Rome, where he was ordained in 1970.

His first parish appointment was to St Brendan’s, Yoker where, despite being perceived an intellectual, he took an immediate interest in the Clydeside shipyards and the people who worked there.

In 1974 he was appointed lecturer in philosophy at St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross and Bearsden but remained involved in industrial chaplaincy.

He was held in high esteem by his colleagues in the Ecumenical Scottish Churches Industrial Mission team which published his reflections on the shipyards called God’s Working World.

His colleague, Father Willy Slavin, parish priest of St Simon’s, Partick, said: “This little booklet is still treasured by many in the Justice and Peace movement. It was his involvement in Justice and Peace that took Frank to Argentina as a kind of one-man mediator after the Falklands conflict.

“For this reason, while working as a parish priest in Mar del Plata and later further south in the port of Quequen, he accepted an invitation also to lecture to the cadets in the Naval College in Buenos Aires. He once wrote back to say how impressed he was by the new Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, now of course Pope Francis.”

The late Cardinal Tom Winning recorded how, on a visit to South America, he decided to pop in on Father Kennedy to see how he was doing.

Exhausted after an all-night bus journey, the Cardinal had to climb through a window to get into the presbytery because Father Kennedy could not find the key.

He resisted ecclesiastical directions to write a will because he said he didn’t own anything.

Benefactors with connections to Scottish bull sales – Argentina is famous for its prime beef cattle herds – paid for his occasional journeys to the USA and Spain for philosophy conferences.

After 20 years in Argentina he returned to Scotland with his health affected and it was then he took up the post vacated by Canon John Sheary at St Ronan’s, Bonhill. However, he clearly missed the buzz of life in South America and decided to retire to Argentina where he is now buried in the town of General Madariaga.

A requiem mass for Father Kennedy was concelebrated by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia and his brother priests at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow on Saturday. Father Kennedy is survived by his sister, Mary.