The Rev. John Kennealy, or Father Jack as he likes to be known, assumed the duties of pastor at St. Nicholas Catholic Church, 8603 Contee Road, on Oct. 26 last year, having previously served for five years as pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Lexington Park.
Father Jack grew up in Takoma Park, and is a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation from college, he was employed in various finance positions and during that time completed his Master of Business Administration. from George Washington University. His work has included a position as grants administration for a contractor dealing with federal agencies, including Health and Human Services and the Department of Energy, as well as corporate accounting positions.
In the late '80s and early '90s, Father Jack became involved in lay spiritual work tutoring young people, and in particular working with refugee families. He got to know the Rev. Michael Salah of St. Francis Xavier parish, who became his spiritual advisor and told him, "You would make a great priest." Father Jack was at a decision point in his career and his life. He could go on to get his Certified Public Accountant license or take a truly different path and join the priesthood. He chose the latter and, in 2000, entered Blessed John XXIII Seminary, in Weston, Mass., which primarily serves men interested in the priesthood as a second career. In 2004, he was ordained as a priest and began the next part of his life's journey.
Father Jack is excited about his assignment at St. Nicholas. He said that of primary importance in his position as pastor is being available for church services and pastoral counseling. He also notes the community spirit in the parish and the many conveniences and attractions of the Laurel area. For him, chief among these attractions is the closeness of his family and friends of many years.
There are several children and youth initiatives that he wishes to strengthen in the parish, including involving more parents in the religious education offerings, increasing the numbers of girls and boys as altar servers and developing programs and activities for youth and teenagers.
His background in finance will be particularly helpful to the parish as the members contemplate some immediate needs such as replacing the faltering heating and air conditioning system, and the possible construction of a parish hall.
To help himself keep up the pace demanded by all of these activities, Father Jack works out regularly in the gym and plays tennis when time permits.
Welcome to our new community member, Father Jack!