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Finding Strength in Community

05/10/12
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Daniel J. Kennedy, 2012 Finnegan Award Winner (Photo by Christopher Huang)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: May 10, 2012

Senior Daniel J. Kennedy doesn’t appear to have had much in the way of alone-time during his Boston College years.
  
The theology and philosophy major from Toledo, Ohio, has spent a multitude of hours working with Campus Ministry, St. Ignatius Church, the PULSE Council and the Church in the 21st Century Center Advisory Committee, among others, as well as tutoring at Nativity Preparatory School in Jamaica Plain and twice going on service trips — the second as leader — with the Arrupe Service and Immersion Program.
  
And Kennedy has a straightforward reason for the degree of his involvement: You can’t make a difference in the world by sitting in your room.
 
“When it comes to social justice, whatever your abilities as an individual, they are never as strong as your ability to work in a community,” he explains. “Your efforts must be in a larger context, because it is through relationships with others that we become fruitful human beings.”
 
Kennedy’s devotion to faith as a vehicle for service to others, combined with his strong academic record, has earned him the Edward H. Finnegan, SJ, Memorial Award — Boston College’s most prestigious graduation honor, given to the student who best exemplifies the spirit of BC’s motto, “Ever to Excel.”  Click here to read about the three other students nominated.
 
Having explored the personal, spiritual and community dimensions of faith at BC, and at his Jesuit high school in Toledo, Kennedy is preparing to take the next step. This summer, he will formally enter religious life and join the Society of Jesus.
 
“When it comes to vocation, I think there are two kinds of people,” he says. “There are people who jump in, and people who wade in. I am the latter. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for a while, because I have been fortunate to have great models of Jesuit life in high school, and in these four years at BC. I have been able to know great men of faith, good humor and joy — and I can’t stress enough the ‘joy’ part.
  
“My service experiences made me understand myself and what I could do, and my mentors and friends helped affirm this. I felt I could be a man for others, and so the question became, ‘Where do I feel God is calling me?’”
  
At BC, Kennedy has followed his faith in various employment, service and leadership opportunities. As a sacristan for Campus Ministry, he helped set up weekly Masses and maintain BC chapels; he held the same title and responsibilities at St. Ignatius Church, while also assisting the parish office with daily operations, faith formation classes, prayer groups and coordinating weddings and funerals.
  
As a member of BC’s Ignatian Society, Kennedy led a group of students through a weekly Examination of Consciousness, a form of prayer in Ignatian spirituality. He provided a student perspective for the Church in the 21st Century Center advisory committee while also helping organize the popular joint C21-Campus Ministry monthly event Agape Latte.
  
One of his most significant experiences was through the PULSE Council, where he helped coordinate three of the service placements that are a hallmark of the PULSE Program, which combines social service fieldwork with the study of philosophy, theology and other disciplines. His duties entailed acting as a liaison between PULSE and local service agencies as well as a mentor helping students reflect on their activities through PULSE.
  
His Arrupe trips to Belize as a sophomore and Mexico this past year were a means for Kennedy to contemplate “the idea of fostering solidarity, forming relationships with people across boundaries, whether real or self-imposed.”
  
PULSE Director David McMenamin praised Kennedy’s efforts: “He sees his work with PULSE and the Arrupe program not only as service activities but as educational opportunities that he is very grateful to have had.”
  
Kennedy says he has a “long list” of people who have been major influences for him: At BC, that list includes McMenamin, Theology Professor Stephen Pope, Campus Minister Ellen Modica and Vice President William B. Neenan, SJ. But his parents deserve a fair amount of credit, too, he adds.
  
“My father, as an engineer, tends to take a long view. My mother, as a pediatrician who provides a ministry of health and caring, often has to focus on more immediate needs. So I think that through their examples — not only in their occupations but their service and generosity — I am able to weigh long and short-term aspects of a situation.”

That capability, Kennedy knows, will be critical for the next phase of his life, which will begin in August when he enters the Jesuit novitiate of the Chicago and Detroit Province.   

“I don’t find it daunting,” he says. “I have spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection. I believe that this is what God wants of my life. There are reasons to join the Society, and there are reasons to stay in the Society, and they are not always exactly the same reasons. It’s a matter of how much you trust in God.”