Fr. Neil Roderick McKenna
Father McKenna died suddenly in Antigonish on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.
Born in Antigonish, he was the son of the late Neil and Christena (Boyd) McKenna. He was educated in Antigonish and Mabou, graduated from St. Francis Xavier University with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees, and studied at Saint Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 and served as a priest of the diocese in Larry’s River and several parishes in Cape Breton. For the past number of years he was involved in Hospital Pastoral Ministry, first in Halifax at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, then the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, and finally, St. Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish, retiring in 2014. His hospital ministry took him to people when they were most vulnerable, and he always reached out to them with compassion and understanding, providing comfort in their most difficult hours. He was also recognized as a gifted homilist and teacher whose words inspired and challenged his listeners. At the time of his death, he was the chaplain at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Martha. Before entering the seminary, Fr. Neil taught high school English in Antigonish and is remembered fondly by many of his former students. He also had a lifelong passion for pipe band drumming. In 1974 he took a leave of absence from teaching and spent a year in Scotland receiving instruction from Jim Kilpatrick MBE and Tom Brown, two of the world’s greatest band drummers. He was an instructor and lead drummer of the Antigonish Legion Pipe Band that won several North American Championships and placed 3rd in the World Championship, Grade 2, in 1976. He continued to teach drumming during his time as a priest and in 2013 was inducted into the Antigonish Highland Games Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his sister-in-law, Dr. Patricia McKenna; his nieces and nephews, Jennifer (Anthony) Polson, Patrick (Krista) McKenna, Stephen McKenna, Matthew (Sarah) McKenna, Caroline McKenna, and Emily McKenna. Besides his parents, he was predeceased by his brother, Boyd.
Funeral mass was held August 5 at St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Antigonish.