Surrounded and aided by family pallbearers, Gene Kennedy left Old Saint Patrick’s Church in downtown Chicago yesterday for the last time as the sound of a lonely bagpipe drifting through the evening air.
Kennedy, psychologist, church commentator and NCR columnist, died June in Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, Michigan, with his family at his side. He was 86.
Family and friends gathered Wednesday for a mass of the Resurrection, laced with Irish melodies, to mourn his death and celebrate the full life he had lived.
Mourners prayed before his casket and greeted family members to express their condolences and say their last goodbyes. A lit Paschal Candle placed near the casket cast the sorrows in a context of joy.
Father Ken Velo, a Kennedy friend, served as chief celebrant and in a homily reflection singled out Kennedy’s kindness, courage and strong faith. “His was an extraordinary life. He reached out to so many, often writing notes of kindness to someone in need.
“His courage often showed up in his writings. He didn’t hold back in his church criticisms, even when it was unpopular to do so.”
After a Communion meditation, “Ave Maria,” sung by his niece, Lisa Kennedy, and a final commendation, the “Celtic Song of Farewell,” the Kennedy family followed his casket from the church as the gatherers sang a final recessional song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”