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Rev. George P. McKenna, Oldest Chicago Archdiocese Priest, Dies

Fr. McKenna, Who Retired in 1989, was Most Recently Associate Pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago

Chicago, IL (Jan. 30, 2019) – Rev. George P. McKenna, the oldest archdiocesan priest, passed away on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. He was 99 years old.

Born on June 12, 1919, in Chicago, Fr. McKenna attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.

Fr. McKenna was ordained to the priesthood on May 5, 1944, in Mundelein, Ill., by Samuel Cardinal Stritch, archbishop of Chicago, and celebrated his first solemn Mass at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago on May 6 of the same year.

Following ordination, Fr. McKenna served the Archdiocese of Chicago in a number of roles: He was a teacher at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago; assistant pastor at St. Richard Parish on 50th Street in Chicago and Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights, Ill.; he was pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Chicago and St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn, Ill. He served as associate pastor of St. Ita Parish in Chicago, St. Terrence Parish in Alsip, Ill., and most recently Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago. He was also the founder and Catholic chaplain of Our Lady of Loretto Chapel at the Chicago Midway International Airport where he served from 1988 through 2011. Fr. McKenna retired in 1989.

Deacon Dan Welter, chancellor of the archdiocese, was blessed to have Fr. McKenna as a teacher at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. “He was a beloved confessor. He would always remind us that we were beloved children of God.” He recalls Fr. McKenna’s eidetic memory: Every year his instructor would memorize the names of all his students and on the first day of class he would call seminarians by name without the need of a chart. “This ability lasted all his life,” as 40 years later he called Deacon Welter by his full name. “He always looked for the best in people and always gave the benefit of the doubt. Always!” said Deacon Welter, who remembers Fr. McKenna as kind and holy.

Fr. McKenna was famous for his trilogy titled “I’ll Only Speak For 3 Minutes,” his personal blog, God Is Good, and his latest collection of short homilies, “Wisdom From The Pulpit.”

“He was the kindest, gentlest and holiest person I’ve ever met,” said Rev. Stanley G. Rataj, pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish. Fr. Rataj had known Fr. McKenna since 1967 when he was a seminarian in Fr. McKenna’s religion class.

The Chicago Catholic newspaper wrote an article on Fr. McKenna as part of a special issue marking the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The article can be found here: Meet the archdiocese’s new oldest living priest.

Visitation hours will be on Thursday, January 31, 2019, from 2 to 8 p.m. and Friday, February 1, 2019, from 10 to 11 a.m. A prayer service will be held on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 7 p.m., while the funeral Mass will take place on Friday, February 1, 2019 at St. Barnabas Church, 10134 South Longwood Drive in Chicago.

Bishop Raymond Goedert will be the main celebrant while Rev. Paul Burek will be the homilist of the funeral Mass.

Interment will take place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Alsip, Ill.