Father Kennedy Ordained as Priest


Scarlett Chu, Campus Reporter

Thunderous applause broke out in St. Joseph’s Chapel on February 4, 2020, as Father John Martin Kennedy was officially vested and ordained as a priest. Many people came for this rare and long-awaited occasion, including Kent students, faculty, family members, friends from his time in divinity school, and members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan.

Father Kennedy, standing before Ian Douglas, the Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, vowed to “proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” “to love and serve the people among whom [he would] work,” and “to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.”

Peter Walsh, the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and a former chaplain at Kent, delivered the ordination sermon. He told Father Kennedy that the “love of Christ is the heart of priesthood and that in the giving you will find yourself.” “Your life is like a gospel,” he said, “people can look at your life, and they can tell Christ is lived out through this person.”

As a priest, Father Kennedy can now administer the sacraments in the Holy Communion during chapel and he can also hear confessions and tell others that their sins are forgiven on behalf of God, which he describes as an important ability and responsibility.

Father Kennedy has spent almost five years preparing for the priesthood but has been considering and discussing it since 2011. “The first step is to find a congregation or church to sponsor you, and to put you up before others who will later determine whether you are worthy to become a priest or not.”

It was a long and complicated process for Father Kennedy, which involved receiving approval and recommendation from the bishop of Connecticut, working for the congregation that is sponsoring him for one year, and attending seminary at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale for his Master of Divinity degree.

In June, Father Kennedy became a deacon. He believes that the reason why becoming a deacon is the first step in the entire process, is to remind priests that they are always servants, but not only of God.

“Jesus talked about leadership in a way that is for people in authority to assert it over people under them, but for his followers, it’s not to be that way, but rather to be the servant of all.” This is something that Father Kennedy holds close to his heart: greatness is determined by how much you do for other people.

Father Kennedy says that a major component of his journey to becoming a priest was finding himself and his purpose as a person. “For a Christian that feels called to become a priest,” he adds, “there is a deep sense that Jesus is calling you to do this, that Jesus is calling you to take care of his people.”

When he started to have this sense of awareness, Father Kennedy describes it as “a certain sense that it’s the only thing to do with your life that makes any sense; that if you don’t listen to this call, you’ll probably never quite be settled.” He says that while it might sound dramatic to compare the sense he feels to destiny, it is true for many, if not most, priests.

Father Kennedy sometimes struggled with his decision throughout the five years of intense preparation, but he says that “the struggle in why I want to do this has completely transformed into clarity and joy about it.” In the official moment of being ordained a priest, Father Kennedy remembers thinking, “Wow, this is it.” He expresses that it feels wonderful, almost unbelievable to finally reach this point. By the time the ceremony came, he felt completely ready.

The Kent community expresses their congratulations and excitement on his ordination and the new chapter of life that awaits Father Kennedy.