In his desk drawer at the New York Province offices on 83rd Street, Fr. James Keenan, SJ, keeps a small black book which he frequently consults but rarely speaks about.
The book is a hand-written record of the marriages, anniversaries and baptisms he has celebrated for relatives, Jesuit graduates, friends and supporters during the 58 years since he entered the Society of Jesus. In all, Fr. Keenan has presided over more than 600 marriages and nearly an equal number of other sacraments that have enabled so many people to lead richer lives, to grow in the Spirit and to become more fully Catholic.
Fr. Keenan has dedicated his life to putting the ideals of St. Ignatius into practice, serving lengthy tenures as president of Xavier High School, McQuaid Jesuit High School, Canisius High School and Saint Peter’s Preparatory School, as well as the New York City Nativity Schools. Along the way, he has left his indelible mark, ministering with a selfless sense of compassion and love, and providing pastoral support to all he encounters. In 2008, Fr. Keenan joined the province staff, extending his personal, caring presence to the Society’s supporters and helping them see the clear connections between their generosity and the many needs of the Province.
“Quite simply, Jim Keenan is an outstanding priest, and all he does and all he is springs from his priesthood,” said Jack Raslowsky, Xavier High School’s president and longtime friend. “In many ways, he embodies the ideals that Pope Francis envisions for priests today—a generous, selfless servant ministering by his presence and his care—in notes, calls, hospital visits, home Masses and through countless celebrations.”
As director of donor relations, Fr. Keenan corresponds with monthly donors in the Jesuit Good Samaritan Club, sends gift acknowledgements and fundraising letters and provides vital help in editing province publications. From the moment he finishes his morning commute and arrives at work (traveling via public transportation from the Xavier Jesuit Community on 16th Street), his phone rings with calls from friends and province supporters who know him as a dear friend, a cherished loved one, the family priest or lifetime spiritual advisor.
“It’s the people who make the job,” Fr. Keenan said. “Many people who support the Jesuits share so generously in other aspects of their lives. So many tell me that they want to do more for others, and it is a tremendous gift to be able to listen to them and help them live out their faith and grow closer to Christ.”
Click the audio player below to listen to Fr. Keenan briefly talk about his black book.
Adapted from JESUITS magazine, Summer 2014. To read the full magazine online, click here.