By Amy Korpi, Staff Writer
In February, Pope Francis approved four “Universal Apostolic Preferences” to guide the life and work of the Society of Jesus over the next 10 years.
One of these, “journeying with youth,” calls on Jesuits and their institutions to walk with young people, listen to them, encourage them in their faith development, and to be open to their creativity.
According to Noah Schrader, Xavier University class of 2021, anyone seeking guidance in this area need look no further than Fr. Tom Kennealy, SJ.
Father Kennealy, who recently celebrated 70 years as a Jesuit, has spent the last 50 years accompanying Xavier students on their journeys through college life—as a professor of French and linguistics, as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and as university archivist.
He’s also served as faculty advisor for a student group called Life After Sunday (LAS).
In 2005, some Xavier undergrads founded the LAS club to provide students with a practical means for integrating their faith into everyday life by praying the Rosary, studying the Bible, and more. The founders called it Life After Sunday to reflect the belief that living a truly authentic Catholic life goes far beyond just going to Mass once a week.
Today the club—of which Schrader is the 2019-20 president—has more than 100 registered members, and about 20 students regularly attend bi-weekly meetings.
“Father Kennealy has been a constant amid the continuous cycle of students who have participated in LAS during their four years at Xavier,” says Mallory Smarto, class of 2016 and former LAS president. “A caring, available, and humble person, he has maintained the club’s vision and overall direction. He is such a gift!”
“In addition to doing all he can to ensure the club thrives, he offers the invaluable service of helping us as individuals to develop our faith through his teaching and mentorship,” adds Schrader.
Father Kennealy responds, “The students who put this club together did me a favor. Over the years, they’ve inspired me and enriched my life by their deep faith.”
Students and alumni celebrated that connection at an LAS reunion honoring Fr. Kennealy in May. Recalling the event—and the many years preceding it—he says, “My prevailing feeling is one of great gratitude to the students, to God for my vocation, to the Society for all the graces I’ve experienced throughout my years as a Jesuit. I’ve been very blessed.”
Another friend, Fr. Bryan Norton, SJ, declares, “Fr. Kennealy is one of my Jesuit heroes. I saw in him the joy and peace of Jesuit life, and it influenced me greatly. For me, he is at once a father and a brother, a friend, and a companion in Christ. His priestly vocation has inspired mine in countless ways.”
Such relationships are vital for the future of the Society, says Fr. Kennealy: “If our work is to go on, it is the younger people who will do it. We need to pass the torch—trusting in the generations that come after us to continue the spirit, ideals, goals, and means to achieve them. In turn, our interactions with younger people are energizing. It is one thing to age; we have no choice in that. But getting old is something else. Our involvement with younger people can help us remain youthful for a lifetime.”
In the spirit of remaining youthful, Fr. Kennealy is going to continue working. In all his time at Xavier, he hasn’t taken a sabbatical. So, for the next six months, he plans to work at Xavier on a biography of Fr. Francis Finn, SJ—“one of the great American Jesuits and everything a holy, committed Jesuit should be.”
There are many people who would say to Fr. Kennealy that it takes one to know one.