I have often been asked where I was before I came to Marist School as Alumni Chaplain. When I say that I came from Suva, Fiji, people seem surprised. Now that I think if it, getting to Fiji was a journey that took 50 years with the Marists. When I first joined the Marists, I had no
inclination whatsoever to work outside the United States. Two things had attracted me to the Marists: it was a religious congregation dedicated to Mary and teaching was one of its ministries.
In high school, I became especially interested in teaching biology. This I did from 1973–1975 here at Marist School, while still a seminarian. At the time, there were only five buildings on campus: the rectory, Esmond Brady Memorial Chapel, St. Peter Chanel Hall, Whitehead Cafeteria, and the old Kuhrt Gym. The size of the campus in the 1970s was indicative of the size of the student body and faculty and staff. The student body numbered about 500 students with a faculty and staff of about 70. I did not know it then, but this was to be the only time that I would teach science.
After ordination, while in parish ministry from 1978–1984, I taught several adult education courses in Scripture which led me in an entirely different direction in my ministry. I became interested in pursuing higher studies in the Bible. For the next 35 years, studying and teaching Scripture was the center of my life as a Marist.
Halfway through my studies, I was eager to share many of the things I had learned about Scripture. At this time, a visiting Marist from Australia told me about the Marist school of theology in Sydney, Australia. Luckily, they had an opening, and I spent two years (1991–1992) teaching there.
From Sydney, I continued my studies in Rome, Italy, and I returned to Australia in 2005 to teach at the Catholic Institute of Sydney, which is the Archdiocesan school of theology there. Even though the Institute was founded to teach men studying for the priesthood, at least two thirds of the student body were lay people studying theology for a variety of reasons. The Institute not only provides the Church with priests but also with a laity well prepared to take on a variety of roles in the church.
After 11 years teaching in Sydney, I heard of the need for a Scripture lecturer at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji. The Marists have been involved with the Seminary in Fiji since its founding in 1970. Men come from all over the South Pacific: Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands. This gave me the opportunity to learn about a number of different cultures. I lectured there for two-and-a-half years until I returned to Marist School in 2018. When I arrived at Marist School in December of that year, I hardly recognized the school in which I had taught science 45 years earlier. What had been a grassy lot in front of the rectory now holds the Bishop Gunn Administration Center, Woodruff Auditorium, and the Fr. Hartnett Building. Wooldridge Center and Alumni Plaza occupy what had been a black-topped parking lot in front of St. Peter Chanel Hall. The Kuhrt Gymnasium I had known is gone with the new Kuhrt Gym enclosed within Ivy Street Center. The new campus is complete with Centennial Center at the far end. Even though the campus has physically changed over the years, Marist still remains “Marist.” I found teaching in other countries and cultures to be an invaluable experience. I will always be grateful that the Marists gave me this opportunity.
I now serve as Alumni Chaplain at Marist School. In this role, I provide pastoral care and support for all of the school’s alumni. If you or a family member are ever in need, please feel free to reach to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the name of Mary,
Fr. Mark Kenney, S.M. Alumni Chaplain