Monsignor Jack Kennedy – who served as Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome, Head of Divinity at Christ's College and parish priest of Holy Family, Southport – died at the age of 85 on Tuesday 13 September in the 61st year of his priesthood.
Monsignor Jack Kennedy was well known in Catholic circles in England and Wales, not least from the period of his rectorship of the Venerable English College in Rome between 1984 and 1991. To a generation of seminarians he provided challenging, yet fair, leadership as he sought to stretch aspiring candidates to the priesthood. Many of those who trained during this time are now giving invaluable service to the Church in England and Wales.
He also served in the Department of Divinity at Christ's College, Liverpool – then a college affiliated to the University of Liverpool and later a constituent part of what we today know as Liverpool Hope University. From 1980 to early 1984 he headed that department and was therefore familiar to a whole generation of Catholic teachers who, in their careers, represented an important component of Catholic life in this country.
As well as having a prominent role in the formation of priests and Catholic teachers, Monsignor Kennedy was also involved in the early responses of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to the dreadful scourge of child abuse. He was for a number of years the child protection coordinator of the Archdiocese, and he spoke passionately at various meetings of the clergy in Liverpool about the steps needing to be taken to safeguard children and to deal with allegations of abuse. He was a member of the Nolan Review Committee, the independent body which, in 2000, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor invited to review child protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Monsignor Kennedy was certainly a once-met-never-forgotten kind of person; someone who was filled with joie de vivre. He was an extremely generous and charming host who loved the company of friends and fellow priests. At one turn he might speak eloquently and excitedly about something cultural, a glass of fine wine or his favourite stuffed courgette flowers; at others, rather more bluntly about the vagaries of golf. Beneath it all, however, he remained a dedicated priest still trying to live out the vocation to which God had called him.
He always gave himself entirely to whatever he was asked to do over the course of his ministry, not least to the people of Holy Family, Southport, to whom he dedicated the last 21 years of his active ministry.
John Kennedy was born in Chorley on 31 December 1930, the son of James and Alice Kennedy. His early education took place at Sacred Heart, Chorley and he studied for the priesthood at Saint Joseph's College, Upholland and the Venerable English College, Rome. He was ordained priest on 25 November 1955 at the Church of the Twelve Apostles, Rome.
He had three appointments as assistant priest – firstly at St John's, Wigan in August 1956, moving to St Austin's, St Helens in September 1964 and then on to St Edmund, Waterloo in September 1966. In 1968 he was assigned to the staff of Christ's College, serving as Head of Divinity from 1980 to 1984. In February 1984 he was nominated by the Bishops of England and Wales as Rector of the Venerable English College, and on 3 April that year he was named by Pope John Paul II as a Prelate of Honour.
He returned to this Archdiocese in 1991, when he took up his appointment as parish priest of Holy Family, Southport. This was to be his one and only appointment as parish priest, serving his people until September 2012. In retirement he remained in the Southport area. His Funeral Mass was celebrated at Holy Family on Monday 26 September by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor preaching the homily. The Mass was followed by burial at Sacred Heart, Ainsdale.