Bishop William Kenney is celebrating his 50-year anniversary to the priesthood.

Bishop Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, looks after the Pastoral Areas (Southern Deaneries) of Banbury, Coventry, Oxford (North & South), Rugby and Warwick.

On Saturday 29 June a celebration Mass was held at St Joseph’s, Highgate in North London, a Passionist parish.

Bishop William is photographed below with Fr John McCormack C.P.

Together with Fr Anthony Hale, C.P. the trio were ordained in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on 29 June 1969 by Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer.

Unfortunately, Fr Anthony was not well enough to attend on Saturday.

We chat to Bishop Kenney about his Golden Jubilee anniversary…

Was it a special Mass on Saturday, to mark your 50-year anniversary?

Yes, it was. It was just Passionists, family members and a few parishioners from Highgate.

Many of the Passionists are now getting old in this country so quite a few had sent greetings but because of sickness or old age were not there.

Christopher, over 100, was the oldest present. When I was a young student in the 60s he was the rector of the house.

How does it feel to be celebrating your Golden Jubilee?

I suppose that the right word is unbelievable. I do not think that any of us thought 50 years ahead on the day we were ordained. There were not that many people who lived that long then!

It shows how the world has changed that it is now normal for people to get to their early and mid-70s.

Obviously one looks back after all of these years, and again I have had an unbelievable life, which I only hope has been of use to others.

I never thought that it would develop as it did.

At the same time one looks forward.

As St Paul says I am coming to the end of the race, and I await to meet the Lord. Death does not worry me, but the process of dying does sometimes.

One thing that 50 years of priesthood does teach you is to trust in Him. Without that then it would become very hard, and worrying.

What words of advice would you give to those considering the Priesthood now?

Do it, if you suspect that that is what God wants. I have never regretted it.

That does not mean that it has always been easy; but what life is easy that is worth living?

In the 70s and 80s there was much discussion about priestly identity, and what it all meant. I never really understood those debates.

I knew that I was a Passionist and that I was a priest. As already said that was not always a “dance on roses” as they say in Swedish, but it was clear what I was.

Then, with God’s help, you have to make that work for you, and if it does not then you have to move on to whatever the Lord is calling you to. That sounds easy but it is not always easy at the time.

It is a life where despite all the difficulties the Church is having at the moment, people trust you.

I am amazed at the way women and men have invited me into their lives by what they have told me and spoken about.

It is a great privilege to learn to listen; which is what makes a priest’s life so good, at the human level, as well as the at the spiritual.

Have you any specific highlights/memories from the last 50 years?

I sometimes think that God must have a real sense of humour.

Among the reasons I because a Passionist - not the most important ones - was that Passionists were not noted as great intellectuals by and large, and the chances of being sent abroad were small. I ended as you know as an academic in a foreign country (Sweden).

- Living in a Church which did not have structures and where you could think that 10 people at Mass on a Sunday was a great gift were lessons that were marvellous, if hard to learn. You learnt just what it means to be the ‘People of God’ - to be part of that People you do not need to be involved in the numbers game and that is freedom. Each woman and man is so unique, that you only need to have helped one of them for your own life to have real meaning. You become aware of the presence of God all around you, and in Sweden with the Swedes great love of nature that is just extended from people to creation.

- The learning of another language to the level where you can really function and begin to understand another culture have been one of the outstanding features of my life. That journey of discovery still continues, even though I have moved back to England.

- Friendship of all sorts of people and at all sorts of levels. Friendship is one of the bridges between God and ourselves. Its value cannot be overstated. The same goes for every meeting with another person.