Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Studio Above: Bigger by Two

The Stateside church lost not one, but two of its great father-communicators last week.

Fr Paul Keenan, the longtime director of radio ministry in the archdiocese of New York, died suddenly last Monday at 61 outside Grand Central Station.

Alongside his office-work and, until recently, a live graveyard shift call-in show on the archdiocese's Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, Keenan wrote the lone weekly column for the Gotham church's website, not to mention performing the annual honors of introducing the dais at the famed Al Smith Dinner.
Father Keenan's radio program was "Catholic with no apologies," but that Father Keenan was never "aggressive."

"He was a good Catholic priest committed to his faith," Father Kowalski said, "and he was able to engage people of other faiths in order to deepen and expand what he called 'the soulful life,' and to increase their capacity for that."

He also noted that Father Keenan did not hide behind his microphone, despite being "kind of a shy guy."

"Even on his Web site, he had a number if people wanted to call him," Father Kowalski said. "He was very accessible. He could really engage people and draw them out."

That's how he related to his on—air guests. Father Kowalski observed that while some interviewers "exploit people for the sound bite, rather than really listening to them," Father Keenan gave them "the opportunity to get to the depth of what they wanted to say."

"The self—giving that he brought to the particular ministry of radio was profoundly different from what we're usually served up in the media," he said.

Father Keenan was the author of five books, "Beyond Blue Snow," "Heartstorming," "Stages of the Soul," "Elisha's Jars" and "Good News for Bad Days." In his writing he focused on bringing a spiritual perspective into everyday life, being hopeful and joyful, and living with a sense of purpose.

He wrote the column "A Thought for Living" and the blog "Catholic Views" on the archdiocesan Web site, and another column on the Web, "As You Think." His writings appeared on his own Web site,

A radio fan since boyhood, he told CNY in an interview that when he was growing up in Kansas City, Mo., he used to go to bed with a transistor under his pillow.

He was co—host of Religion on the Line for 14 years, and was host of "As You Think," an inspirational program on WOR Radio, for 10 years. He also did commentary on WOR Radio for the Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He anchored the Catholic Channel's broadcast of the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral on April 19 and helped to cover the Mass at Yankee Stadium the next day. He had been involved in the Catholic Channel since its beginning in 2006.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he moved to the United States with his parents as a boy and grew up in Kansas City, Mo. He graduated from Rockhurst College there with a classical bachelor's degree, then entered the Jesuits in Florissant, Mo. He earned master's degrees in moral and pastoral theology at St. Louis University and in philosophy from Fordham University. He was ordained in Kansas City for the Jesuits in 1977 and was incardinated into the Archdiocese of New York in 1993....

He became assistant director of the Office of Communications in 1994 and director of radio ministry in 1998.

Shortly before the launch of his program on the Catholic Channel, Father Keenan told CNY that he loved to offer encouragement to listeners and let them know how Catholic teaching could enrich their lives.

"I've always wanted this program, a national radio show -- always wanted to be there to help people," he said.
Speaking of radio, in the morning the Pope is expected to address an international congress dedicated to Catholic radio that's been meeting in Rome this week. Among others, the gathering was address by the New York project's twin helmsmen: program director Rob Astorino and GM Joe Zwilling.

Personally blessed by B16 during his Stateside jaunt and assured of survival following the impending merger of its provider with onetime rival XM Satellite, the Catholic Channel's content is available alongside the entire Sirius lineup on a free three-day streaming pass.