Newly ordained priest dies suddenly

BOSTON -- Ordained last May, Father Daniel J. Kennedy, 34, died of a heart attack at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn. Jan. 27. Father Kennedy was in Connecticut visiting family.

Father Michael Lawlor, pastor at Father Kennedy’s home parish, St. Joseph Parish in Needham, said the late priest had a great love for God.

“Father Dan Kennedy was such a gift to his parents and to his family, and he was as well a great gift to the Church of Boston,” he added. “His faith, youth and vitality was of great service to our local Church. He had a great knack of being able to interact with people and touch them with God’s love.”

For less than a year, Father Kennedy had served as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Winthrop, his first and only priestly assignment. An assignment to Gate of Heaven Parish in South Boston would have been effective Jan. 31.

An avid runner, Father Kennedy ran the 2006 Boston Marathon to raise awareness of vocations in the city. He was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Vocation Office, and in an April 14 Pilot article he compared running to discerning a call to the priesthood.

“Running a marathon is a journey that parallels, in many ways, discovering a vocation to the priesthood,” he said. “For me marathon training is a time to be alone, a time to discern God’s will, a time to think and a time to pray.”

Father Kennedy, born in Holyoke in 1974, began thinking about a vocation to the priesthood as early as seventh grade. He attended Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury and graduated from Providence College. He worked for five years as a software consultant, taking a leave of absence to enter St. John’s Seminary. He was ordained in May 2007.

Father Kennedy’s wake was to be held Jan. 31 from 3-8 p.m. at St. Joseph Parish in Needham. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley was to celebrate the funeral Mass, also at St. Joseph’s, Feb. 1 at 11 a.m., with the burial to follow at St. Mary Cemetery in Westfield.

Editor’s note: A full obituary for Father Kennedy will appear in the next issue of The Pilot.