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Communication – The Foundation of Love and Respect

In the summer of 1968, after spending 5 years at Christ The King parish in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, Fr. McKenna was transferred to St. Richard’s Parish at 50th and Kenneth, a mere 1.5 mile walk from Midway Airport. Little did he realize at that time how important this area would be to him during the last three decades of his life. It was a big change for Fr. George; he was going to be a full time associate pastor for the first time since his ordination 24 years earlier – no more teaching at his beloved Quigley Seminary. As I go through his old writings – many just typed written notes for his homilies, I am still amazed at how relevant his messages are for all of us today. This post is from his homily at St. Richard’s on Sunday October 6, 1968. The message is to his new parishioners – but is relevant to all settings in life – parish, family, work, community.

Fr. George at Midway Airport, 1997 Photo from Chicago Sun-Times Archives.

I believe strongly in communication – a sharing of ideas with those close to me. Through the years as a teacher, I have always given my students many chances through the school year to communicate with me. They could always write about what they thought of our class and how it was conducted. Oftentimes the thoughts expressed were difficult to swallow, but at least it kept me, as teacher, from living in a dream world. I knew what the students were thinking from their honest written thoughts. If at all possible, their suggestions were used. They felt better because someone was listening to them.

Here in our grammar school I have continued this practice and give the children chances to write down their thoughts each week when I go into their rooms. This has built up a climate of good will; we are sharing our lives in some little way together.

We, priests and people, must continue our efforts to communicate with each other. We know what happens in the family circle when members stop talking to each other or if they continue to talk to each other but don’t speak about the real issues on their minds. Oftentimes these issues or burning ideas fester in the mind and gradually and surely break down the spirit of the home. Love grows cold for each other.

This is true too, at the parish level. When we share out thoughts and ideas together, priests and people, when we tell what issues are disturbing our minds, we set up a atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Communication presupposes a faith, a belief in one another. I share my thoughts and ideas with those whom I trust will give an understanding ear to them. We are open to these people.

This does not necessarily mean that people communicating tell each other only pleasant things. Some parts of the communication may be hard to accept. I referred to this in my experience as a teacher. The most powerful element of communication is telling the truth, at least as we see it.

In conclusion, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us about the church in the world, or regarding our own parish. We are truly interested in what you are thinking, what you are happy about, or what might be disturbing you. There are many ways to communicate. Write a letter, come up to us at parish events, school meetings, before or after Mass, drop into the rectory, or pick up the phone and call. In truly communicating with each other we are laying the foundation of mutual love and respect.

Let me finish with the closing paragraph from Cardinal Cody’s letter: “If our age is one of challenge and change, it is equally an age of great opportunity. A new era of the church has begun. With God’s help and our own mutual trust and helpfulness, it can be a splendid era for all of us.”

Fr. George P. McKenna

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Always & Forever

Father McKenna originally delivered this homily when he celebrated the Wedding of Claudia and Rocky on July 4th, 1970. As with all his writings, the message is timeless. This weekend our family has the honor of attending the wedding of Sarah Heneghan and Gerry Murphy in Ireland. Gerry is the cousin of Anne McKenna, Fr. McKenna’s sister-in-law. In their honor, I have substituted Claudia and Rocky’s names with the names of the new bride and groom.

Gerry Murphy and Sarah Heneghan April 5, 2019

Right now we are celebrating the happiest moments in the lives of two human beings. During this day we cry, we laugh, we sing, we dance and we pray. Today we will experience the complete range of human emotions: the full spectrum of life itself.

Sarah and Gerry have invited us to share with them the deepest expressions of human love. They are living reminders to all of us here this afternoon of what each of us is called to be. We are called to fall in love. We are called to be happy. We are, each of us, called to surrender ourselves to one another.

The love that Sarah and Gerry are speaking to us today has a past, a present, and a future which includes all of us. Each of us here has touched the lives of this couple in some way; and we will continue to join them in their joys and their sorrows, through their smiles and their tears as they travel through life.

The love of these two people is the greatest sign of Christ’s love within his Church. For Christ showed us that love between a man and a woman should symbolize the depth of all relationships within His Church. Because it is through the sacrifice, pain and growth that comes to men and women through life’s struggles that the Kingdom of God will be revealed to man on earth.

We often hear today that the age of permanent commitment has passed – that words like “forever” and “always” are no longer meaningful when they refer to relationships between people. And, no doubt we do live in such an age. Ours are times in which few people dare to make promises. Few people speak of commitment once they seem to have found out what real commitment involves. Seldom today will people risk exposing themselves to one another with all their faults, weaknesses, blemishes and vulnerability, and be humble enough to ask forgiveness and acceptance of them. Perhaps the greatest sin of mankind today is that we would rather put up walls around ourselves which encase our secret identities and brings us only imaginary forms of security. We have hidden our deepest hopes, fears and anxieties from one another. The price we pay for this is loneliness, isolation and unhappiness.

All of this is important to realize because this is probably the single most important message that Sarah and Gerry are presenting to us this afternoon. First of all, they are telling us that “forever” and “always” and “commitment” are still very much alive because LOVE is still very much alive.

In spite of the conditions of the world, regardless of the cost which their loving each other might demand, they are here to say to each other, “I will give my life to you, and together, you and I will face this world and change it through our love.” They have taken off their masks for each other. They’ve dropped their defenses. They have dared to say, even in times like these, “I LOVE YOU” – and mean it.

And when two people face today in this way, all their tomorrows are filled with hope. Not because they are free from struggle, but because they have risked giving meaning to that struggle. Today, Sarah and Gerry have given each other the most meaningful gift any person can give to another. And through this gift of themselves they now share one another’s vision, and will dream each other’s dreams.

Let us then give Sarah and Gerry the best wedding gift we can – the gift I know they would most like to receive. Let us accept the invitation to real love which they have offered to all of us. Sometime today, let us look into the eyes of the one we love, touch his or her hand, and perhaps say an old fashioned but radical word like “always” or “forever”.

Father George McKenna

April 5, 2019 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , | 2 Comments