Father Thomas Kennedy mourned

Record-breaking priest passes away

Father Tom Kennedy, much loved and record-breaking former parish priest of English Martyrs, Haydock, died on Thursday 12 October at the age of 101 and in the 75th year of his priesthood. Father Kennedy's funeral Mass was celebrated at St Andrew's Church, Bagenalstown, County Carlow on Sunday 15 October and his body was interred at Mullan Cemetery, Tullow.
 
Thomas Kennedy was born at Raheenakit, Shillelagh, County Wicklow on 2 July 1916, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Kennedy. He was educated at Shillelagh National School and Knockbeg College, Carlow before studying for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Carlow. He was ordained priest in the college chapel on 3 June 1943.
 
He arrived in the Archdiocese in August 1943 and was appointed assistant priest at St James, Bootle where he remained until his appointment to St Luke's, Whiston in 1952. St Luke's was a relatively new parish in his day and much of his pastoral work was associated with Whiston Hospital. In October 1958 he was appointed assistant to Father Ernest Gray at English Martyrs, Haydock and so began an association with the parish that would last more than 50 years. His ten-year curacy at Haydock was happy but challenging. He recounted that he had a wonderful parish priest in Father Gray and he liked the people. However, it was also a time of great upheaval, with many of the liturgical changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council coming into effect.
 
In 1968 Archbishop Beck asked him to establish the new parish of St David's, Newton-le-Willows. He continued to live at English Martyrs until a presbytery was built, travelling each day as he began the arduous task of building up a parish community from scratch, and celebrating Mass in the parish hall until a new church was ready for use.
 
After five years in Newton-le-Willows he was asked to return to English Martyrs as parish priest following the retirement of Father Gray. His work at Haydock thus continued for almost 44 years. He attributed this happy ministry to being available to the parishioners and not letting disagreements fester, but talking with the person concerned. When most priests of his generation had long retired, Father Tom continued to bat on to his century. "I found out the reason I never retired is I liked the people I worked with and they liked me – at least they said they did!" he told the Catholic Pic last year. He was eventually persuaded to retire when visiting relatives in Ireland last Christmas, and so spent the last few months of his life in a nursing home.
 
In the history of the Archdiocese of Liverpool Father Tom Kennedy is certainly a record breaker. To date he has the distinction of being the longest-lived priest and the longest-serving priest in active ministry (73-plus years). This latter record is unlikely ever to be broken.
 
A Memorial Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, at English Martyrs on Friday 3 November.