Jesuit Father Joseph P. Kane died on June 16, 2014, at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York, the day after the 46th anniversary of his ordination. Born in Union City, New Jersey, on May 2, 1937, of Edmund and Mary (Peterson) Kane, he was 77 years old, and a Jesuit for 58 years.
Following graduation from St. Peter’s Prep, he entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1955, at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, New York. After first vows and collegiate studies, he proceeded to Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, New York, for the study of philosophy (1959-62). Before the study of theology, he was missioned to Colegio San Ignacio in Puerto Rico, where he taught English, math and geography for three years.
Study in preparation for ordination took him to Woodstock College in Woodstock, Maryland (1965-68). He was ordained to the priesthood on June 15, 1968, in Rio Piedras. In 1970 he began his ministry with the New York City Department of Corrections, serving as a chaplain at Riker’s Island Correction Facility and residing at Brooklyn Prep. While continuing his prison ministry, he then resided in the Bronx for the rest of his life. He wanted his home to be open to former inmates who would feel comfortable to meet and chat with him. In 1996 he lessened his time commitment to the prison ministry and began assisting in administration at the Jesuit infirmary, Murray-Weigel Hall.
Almost his entire priestly life (44 of his 46 years of priesthood) was dedicated to prison ministry at the detention facilities on Riker’s Island. There, he gave strong witness to the Jesuit “preferential option for the poor.” He became a “voice for the voiceless,” a strong public advocate and writer for prison reform, for the abolishment of the death penalty and for the more humane treatment of the addicted and those convicted of drug offenses. His years of experience also led him to advocate the unpopular position in favor of the legalization of drugs.
He is survived by a cousin, Susan Kane Henry of Secaucus, New Jersey.