Source: Xavier High School
Jan. 11, 2017 - More than 650 people braved a winter snowstorm to celebrate Fr. James Keenan, SJ, Xavier High School’s legendary 29th president, as he marked his 80th birthday and 60th anniversary as a Jesuit on Jan. 7.
The festivities began with a Mass in the Church of St. Francis Xavier celebrated by Fr. Keenan. His concelebrants included former Xavier president, Fr. Ken Boller, SJ, now president of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City; Fr. Tony Azzarto, SJ, who entered the Society of Jesus with Fr. Keenan in 1956; and Xavier alumni Fr. Jack Replogle, SJ, ’51; Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ, ’67; Fr. Vin Biagi, SJ, ’67; and Fr. Pat Buckley ’82. After Mass, Xavier President Jack Raslowsky presented the President’s Medal to Fr. Keenan for his service to Xavier and her Sons.
“There are constants to Jim Keenan’s life: presence, a holy loyalty, and a humility,” Raslowsky said. “Jim Keenan shows up. He is present, and very present, even if he has a next stop. No place is too far. The gift is in the journey. … Jim, we thank you for making Christ real in our lives.”
Guests then traveled next door to a lively reception at Xavier. Fr. Keenan's nieces, Ellen and Maureen, Vincent Lewis '62, and Fr. Jim Croghan, SJ, rector of the Xavier Jesuit Community, offered toasts. To the delight of the crowd, a short film — Jim Keenan, S.J.: The Movie — was screened for the first time during the party. In the film, family members and former students recounted stories of Fr. Keenan’s famous black book, in which he keeps contact information and mementos from his 60 years in the Society of Jesus; his penchant for asking for rides; and his deep voice, often referred to by former pupils as “The Voice of God.”
Fr. Keenan was born in New York on Jan. 9, 1937. A graduate and former trustee of Bishop Loughlin High School, he entered the Society of Jesus in Aug. 1956. He first arrived at Xavier as a scholastic in 1963; he later served as assistant headmaster, headmaster, and president. In September 2016, Xavier unveiled Keenan Commons, a two-story, multi-use space within its new 33,000-square-foot addition, Fernandez-Duminuco Hall. John Meditz ’66, chair of the board of trustees, and Daniel Denihan ’65, vice chair of the board, gave gifts to name the space in Fr. Keenan’s honor. Fr. Keenan has also served as president of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester, Canisius High School in Buffalo, and the New York City Nativity Schools. He is currently director of donor relations for the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus.
To view a selection of more photos from the celebration, click here.