Feb. 7, 2022 – Fr. William A. McKenna, SJ, was born on Dec. 19, 1933. He was the child of John and Margaret Foley McKenna of Inwood in northern Manhattan. After two years of high school at Mount St. Michael’s Academy in the Bronx, Fr. McKenna landed in Wisconsin, and it was there that he graduated in 1951 from Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien (which closed in 1975). After high school, Will attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Mass., graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1955.
Following his years in college, Fr. McKenna decided to join the Jesuits. After two years of high school in the Jesuits’ Missouri Province and college in the New England Province, Fr. McKenna entered the Society of Jesus in the New York Province at Bellarmine College, Plattsburgh, N.Y., on July 30, 1955.
After finishing novitiate and one year of juniorate at Plattsburgh, Fr. McKenna moved to Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, N.Y., where he earned a Licentiate in Philosophy in 1961. After Shrub Oak, he went, as a regent, to teach Latin, English and religion at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City (1961-1964). The next year he taught philosophy at Fordham University for a year before moving on to Woodstock College in Maryland for Theological studies (1965-1969). Fr. McKenna was ordained to the priesthood in the Fordham University Church on June 13,1968.
In the summer of 1969, Fr. McKenna went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where in 1975 he earned a PhD in philosophy. That year he was sent to Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y., where he taught philosophy until 1980. It was while he was at Le Moyne that he professed his final vows.
By 1980 Fr. McKenna was ready for a new challenge after teaching philosophy to undergraduates. Nigeria was his next assignment. There he worked in the Liturgy department at the Pastoral Institute of Nigeria in Ibadan (1980-1984). Fr. McKenna was a man of few words, but when he spoke of his time in Nigeria it was favorably and with affection. After this African sojourn, he returned to the United States where he served for 33 years as a professor, and then professor emeritus, of philosophy at St. Peter’s College (now University) in Jersey City from 1984 until 2017.
In 2017, Fr. McKenna was assigned to Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, the province health care facility, to pray for the Church and the Society of Jesus. There he really liked to read and maintained his lifelong love of learning. His small library was filled with philosophy texts and books in German. He could often be found in his room praying the Divine Office in German. Until a decline in health prevented him, Fr. McKenna particularly enjoyed pizza on Friday nights. And until that decline in health intervened, he was a quiet and serene presence in the community, a silent witness to his faith and commitment to religious life. He died on Feb. 4, 2022. May his good soul rejoice in the company of the Lord he so humbly endeavored to serve.