Southeast Catholics this weekend will celebrate the 75th birthday of the late Bishop Michael Kenny, the popular priest who worked tirelessly for human rights and world peace.
The third bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, which covers Southeast Alaska, Kenny died of an aneurysm in 1995 at the age of 57, while touring ancient Christian ruins in Jordan.
Kenny served the diocese for 16 years, from 1979 to 1995. He was admired by people of all faiths.
Bishop Edward Burns says a community reception and silent auction is Saturday evening at St. Ann’s Parish Hall. On Sunday afternoon, there’s a celebration mass and picnic potluck at the Shrine of St. Therese. Bishop Kenny is buried at the Shrine.
Burns says he has been hearing stories about Kenny for years, but never knew him.
“When I introduce myself as the Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, so many people say to me, ‘Oh, I knew Bishop Kenny,’ and I always rejoice in hearing the stories they have to offer about him and the great gift of lift that he possessed,” Burns says. “Knowing that aspect of him and being honored to be one of his successors, I definitely wanted to do something like this as we commemorate his 75th birthday.”
Kenny protested the nuclear arms race and joined a human-rights delegation to Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. In 1991, he helped organize a reconciliation service to apologize for past wrongs by the Christian church against Alaska Natives.
The Juneau Assembly in 2009 named the park at Third and Seward Streets the Bishop Michael H. Kenny Memorial Peace Park. The idea was brought to the city by Juneau Veterans for Peace.
Kenny was known as a man of good humor, a strong supporter of the arts who seldom missed a musical or theatrical performance in Juneau, and a gourmet cook. Local arts organizations often auctioned off dinners with the Bishop for fundraisers.
Bishop Burns says it’s “important to remember those who help shape a community.”
Bishop Kenny 75th Memorial Celebration
Reception & silent auction, Saturday, 6 – 9 p.m., St. Ann’s Parish Hall
Liturgy and potluck picnic, Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Shrine of St. Therese