Alumni, students gather to celebrate Bishop Kenny’s 65th anniversary

Alumni, students gather to celebrate Bishop Kenny’s 65th anniversary
Bishop Kenny High School alumni, who graduated in the school’s early years, took a moment to pose after a celebratory Mass marking the 65th anniversary of the school’s founding in 1952. Front: Buddy Lawrence, Jay Robinson, Jeannie Horner and Conrad Gunti; back: Mike and Geri Mickler, Gayle and Pat Thornton

Alumni from the 1950s were among the special guests when The Most Reverend Felipe Estevez, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, led a special celebration to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of Bishop Kenny High School Sept. 8 in Baldwin Athletic Center on the school’s campus.

The 1,210-member student body, as well as invited guests including alumni who were among Bishop Kenny’s first students, enjoyed Mass in the school gymnasium and a reception afterward. The homily was delivered by Father Mike Williams of the Class of 1957. Williams was Bishop Kenny’s first graduate to become a priest.

After the Mass, Bishop Estevez blessed and dedicated a plaque honoring William J. Kenny, who served as Bishop of the St. Augustine diocese from 1902-1913. The plaque will later be installed in the entryway to the school.

Alumni who attended the celebration included J.P. (Pat) Thornton and his wife, Gayle; Mike Mickler and his wife, Geri; Buddy Lawrence, Jeannie Horner and Conrad Gusti, all of San Jose, and Jay Robinson of San Marco, who attended with his wife, Robin, who is not a graduate of Bishop Kenny. J.P Thornton was a member of the Class of 1953, the first class to graduate from the school.

“We are excited to gather as a Catholic community to celebrate this milestone in our school’s history, and at the same time, to pay tribute to Bishop William Kenny, who did so much in his lifetime, not only for the Catholic Church but also for the City of Jacksonville,” said Bishop Kenny Principal Todd Orlando of St. Nicholas.

Bishop William Kenny served as pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, which at the time was the only Catholic Church in Jacksonville and included a school and orphanage. During the 1888 yellow fever epidemic, in which 5,000 people became seriously ill and 400 died, Father Kenny served the sick both at home and in hospitals. Eventually he also became ill and needed a period of recuperation before returning to his duties.

In 1901, when the Great Fire of Jacksonville left approximately 8,677 people homeless and destroyed 2,368 buildings over 466 acres of the city, Father Kenny brought comfort to victims and leadership during the city’s recovery. In 1902, he was appointed to be the third Bishop of St. Augustine by Pope Leo XIII, and was the first American-born priest to hold that position.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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