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Importance Of Names


My former student  Don Giannetti Now a Parish Assistant at St. Edmunds in Oak Park, IL Photo by David Pierini

My former student
Don Giannetti
Now a Parish Assistant at St. Edmunds in Oak Park, IL
Photo by David Pierini

In my first appointment as a priest in 1944 at Maryville Academy, a home for 850 dependent children in Des Plaines, Illinois, I came to know the value of names.  These boys and girls, with ages from 1st grade through High School were growing up with no parents present in their lives.  When someone called them by name in a friendly way they felt a growth in self-esteem and happiness.  I tried my best to learn their real names as well as their nick names.

As a teacher at Quigley Prep Seminary (1949 – 1968) I was supervising a class for examinations and I told the 35 boys that I would know their middle names by the end of the test.  They would try me then at the end, but my promise always won out because of my good memory.  My intelligence remained quite normal all through life, but my good memory, especially with names has been beneficial all through life.  If I were to know someone’s name this could be a bridge to friendship!

 Recently Don Giannetti, a former student of mine, a lay man in his 70’s told me of one of his memories as a student at Quigley.  He said my ability to remember names impressed him deeply.  Later in life, as a counselor for 25 years at a public High School for boys and girls, he tried mightily to learn their names.  This brought him much success and happiness as he guided these young people through the challenging years of adolescence. 

Perhaps we have lived with or worked with others with no knowledge of the value of names.  Their refusal to use our names simply told us, “I have no desire for your friendship”  No sharing of ideas or ideals ever took place.  A dull experience.  I have lived and worked with others like this, with a record of never using my name- first or last – for four or five years.  I felt no happiness and our common work had limited success.  I would never wish that way of life on anyone.

Some people say they have poor memories and quickly forget the names of those they meet.  We can all have strong memories if we put our minds to the work at hand.  For me, the best way to memorize someone’s name comes through association.  Connect the name with something familiar.  For example, John Mollan – associate with the word “Moll”, a name sometimes given to a woman in literature.  Keep telling ourselves that our memories can be super strong – every one of us!

We should teach our children the way to happiness is found in being interested in the lives of other human beings.  Tell them how everyone treasures his or her name and honors those with a respect for it.  Assure our children and encourage them to begin now with fellow students in their classes.  Learn all their names!

                        Fr. George Mc Kenna

December 14, 2013 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I have often told this story about this amazing priest… On my very first day walking into my new high school, he greeted me at the front door BY NAME… not only that but ne knew what parish I was from and that I had a sister named Sally… I had NEVER SEEN THIS MAN BEFORE IN MY LIFE. He got his information from just memorizing my admission application and photo. Boy, did that ever make an impression on me and make me feel at home in my new school. He is a great man. Even at his advanced age, he still posts weekly blogs on the internet to inspire people… We need more priests like him today….Thanks Fr. McKenna for being part of my life.

    Greg Strobel QPSS class of 1967

    Comment by Greg Strobel | December 14, 2013 | Reply

  2. Like many others, I experienced Fr. McKenna’s remarkable memory at Quigley. An older brother had preceded me there, but soon I learned he knew Everyone! Later in life, I was privileged to enjoy Fr. McKenna’s gifts once again when I moved into St. Barnabas parish where he was pastor. He still knew my name. Even later, when my father passed away, he was buried from St. Germaine where, you guessed it, Fr. McKenna was again living and said the funeral Mass. Like Don in the article I too was a Guidance Counselor and benefitted much from Father’s lesson on the importance of names. Thanks, Father.

    Comment by Jack Carlson | December 15, 2013 | Reply

  3. Hi Father George! I remember you telling me this story – it amazes me still! I wasn’t fully aware that you memorized first AND last names! Wow… I have trouble remembering first names of newly hired employees during their orientation class! I am so glad that w were able to talk on the phone the other day. It made me SO happy! I sent you a small package. It should arrive Monday or Tuesday. Just a little treat for the holiday! I will call you next week. Love you, Fr. George! Have a great weekend – the 4th Sunday of Advent is almost here already! Love, Nancy

    Comment by nancywest22 | December 20, 2013 | Reply


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