Fr Joseph Kenny, OP RIP (1936-2013)

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Fr Joseph Peter Kenny (aka AveJoe or Alhaji) has passed on. He died on the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas, 28th January, 2013. He was originally from the Central Province of St Albert the Great, USA but he has lived and worked all his life in the Province of St Joseph the Worker, Nigeria and Ghana, specifically, at Ibadan, the House of Formation of the Province.

Fr Kenny was born on the January 12, 1936. He made his First Profession in the Order in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1963. Soon after his ordination, he was assigned to Nigeria in November 1964. That assignment became a permanent one because he spent his entire life in Nigeria and was always proud to say he was a citizen of both the USA and Nigeria.

He started his studies at the Aquinas Institute, River Forest, where he studied Philosophy and Theology. He also studied at Aquinas Institute Dubuque, Pontifical Institute of Arabic Studies, Rome, University of Tunis and University of Edinburgh. He was a foremost expert in Islamic and Arabic Studies.

With his expertise, he taught in various institutions in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. He retired as a full professor and Head of Department of Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s premier university. He was one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Institute, the Center of Institutional Studies of the Nigerian Province and taught there all his life. Even in his retirement and to the point of his death, he laboured earnestly for the realization of the Dominican University Project of the Province.

Practically every brother of the province passed through him during their formation. Till his death, he was an epitome of assiduous studies to all the brothers and an example of radical poverty. He has written several books and over 200 articles on various areas of theology and philosophy, Thomism, metaphysics, liturgical music, Islam, inter-religious dialogue and various other social issues. He was a lover of Liturgical Music especially Gregorian chants. To complement this interest, was his excellence on the piano. He will also be remembered for his hobby of bee-keeping. At a time, the honey from his bees served as a great source of income for the community.

As an expert in Islam, he served in various capacities on various commissions for Inter-Religious Dialogue for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Association of Episcopal Conference of West Africa. He had a reading and speaking knowledge of the following languages, most of which were on the expert grade: English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Hausa, Arabic, Yoruba, Dutch, and Portuguese.

Fr Kenny will be greatly missed by all the brothers. It is not a coincidence that he died on the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas. While he was alive, he studied, wrote and taught St Thomas extensively. There is no doubt that St Thomas himself will be at hand to welcome him into the beatific realm. May his soul rest in perfect peace.