The funeral took place in Dungiven yesterday of Rev. Kevin McKenna, one of the most senior priests in the Derry Diocese.
Rev. McKenna, retired Parish Priest of Dungiven and former Principal of Carndonagh Community School in Inishowen, passed away peacefully at Altnagelvin Hospital on Friday last. He was aged 79.
A native of Drumderg, near Draperstown in South Derry, Fr. McKenna was educated at St Columb’s College and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
Ordained in 1959, the following year he was appointed to the staff of Carndonagh College before, in 1963, taking up a teaching post in Maghera.
In 1973, he returned to Carndonagh College as principal and the same year was appointed principal of the new Carndonagh Community School. He remained at the school until he retired from education in the summer of 1991.
After a year in Kilrea, Rev. McKenna was appointed Parish Priest in Derry’s Waterside where he remained for six years.
In 1998, he moved to Dungiven as Parish Priest where he remained until his retirement in 2009.
At yesterday’s Requiem Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Dungiven - which was concelebrated by Bishop Donal McKeown - Fr. Michael Canny, Parish Priest, Waterside, paid tribute to Rev. McKenna who he described as someone who “brought variety and richness to the tapestry of our lives.”
He added: “When it comes to being unique, different, one of a kind we have no need to look beyond the life and now death of the man who has brought us here today.
“The priests of this diocese are all unique but he was the most unique of all of us. What you saw was what you got – didn’t care what he said – he spoke it as he saw it. When he spoke you didn’t need to fetch a dictionary to figure what he said.
“No respecter of positions – everyone was the same. All equal in his eyes. No time for pretence or pretenders. Fr Kevin didn’t do fake.”
Turning to Rev. McKenna’s tenure as school principal in Cardonagh, Fr. Canny remarked: “The school there became the biggest school in the Republic of Ireland and, possibly, in these islands. He was a very capable and able administrator who ran a very good school, ably helped by Veronica. Despite the huge number of pupils he knew every pupil by name and all about them.”
His priestly life, he said, could be reflected on in two parts - as an educator and as a parish priest.