Who is this Father Jim McKenna?
To those of you who have known him in his lifetime, you will long remember his hardy handshake, infectious laugh, all embracing hugs and his message of recovery. For others, well...
Fr. Jim's lifelong dream to become a Catholic priest came true in 1960. At that time he took a pledge to refrain from alcohol for five years. In 1965, while he was fulfilling his priestly duties he started enjoying occasional cocktails. In 1972, with permission from the diocese, he joined the Trappist Monks. After a year at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, he realized he was too "people oriented" for the life of a contemplative monk and returned to parish work.
Fr. Jim's assignments were varied and he performed them diligently. He became a chaplain at Ridgewood's Valley Hospital when he became aware that he was burning out. He went for an evaluation and it was decided that while he was a good priest, he was also an alcoholic. After three months in Guest House in Minnesota, an addiction treatment rehab for Catholic clergy and religious, he returned to Bergen County and attended AA meetings.
Fr. Jim was assigned to Oradell's St. Joseph's R.C. Church where he started the recovery mass for anyone affected by the disease of alcoholism, with the hope of giving more people an opportunity to leave the "Hell" of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction and perhaps find the "Heaven of Sobriety." The Third Saturday mass began with 18 people and quickly spread to over 500. Fr. Jim began each mass with, "Hello, my name is Jim and I am an alcoholic"; and all felt welcome.
In 1995, he was appointed pastor at Closter's St. Mary's R.C. Church and served faithfully for ten years.
In 2005, he retired to Ramsey's St. Paul's R.C. Church where Monsignor Lawrence Cull and he merged their two recovery masses and continues even today.
Sadly, just after his retirement, Fr. Jim faced imminent death due to cancer of the brain. But, just before doing so, our wounded hero inspired The Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund to help others in any way possible to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
Fr. Jim passed away peacefully on May 23, 2006 and through this fund his legacy continues..