NEW YORK — The Fire Department of New York recognized chaplain Christopher Keenan, OFM, as the FDNY 2015 Person of the Year at its 91st annual Holy Name Society breakfast on April 26. The commemoration included a 10:15 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and a breakfast at the nearby New York Hilton Hotel.
Christopher, who is marking his 50th anniversary as a Franciscan friar this year, was one of two people given the honor. The other was Thomas Galvin who, like Chris, is a deputy chief. Chris, who has served the FDNY for nearly 14 years, said last month’s Mass and breakfast were “superb events.”
Roughly 800 people attended, said Chris, adding that nearly three dozen members of his extended family were there.
Chris was sworn in as chaplain on Nov. 16, 2001 as the smoke and dust continued to rise from Ground Zero, according to an article in HNP Today. He succeeded Mychal Judge, OFM, who died during the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The FDNY described Chris as “a man who serves one master, but wears many hats when it comes to serving others.” The Holy Name Society’s description of Chris said “During his 14 years with the department, Chris has celebrated many baptisms, marriages, wakes, funerals, burials, plaque dedications, liturgies and ceremonies. He will forever be a part of this very big family we call the FDNY.
“His is not a ‘ministry to the people, but with the people,’ and he lives it every day,” added the fire department.
Christopher, who concelebrated the April 26 Mass, said he appreciates his role with the FDNY. “As a grateful friar of Holy Name Province in my 50th year, it is an honor to accept the award. The fire department has been blessed for 24 years with a member of HNP as its chaplain — first, Julian Deeken, OFM, then Mychal Judge and now myself. Who has it better than me, combining being a friar with being a member of the fire department with 14,000 first responders?”
Chris recalls attending his first Holy Name Society Communion breakfast in 1950. It was held at Assumption of Our Lady Church in Wood-Ridge, N.J., where he and his family were parishioners. The photo below shows Chris with his father and three brothers.
Since 2011, Chris has served as chaplain at the College of Mount St. Vincent College in the Bronx. He is active with other organizations, including Create Young Adult Center in Harlem and the Life Experience Faith Sharing Associates for the homeless — both in New York City — as well as the Province’s St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.
At the Holy Name Society event, a fundraiser, the FDNY presented its Father Mychal Judge Humanitarian Award, recognizing community service, to Lt. Kevin McCutchen and the officers and members of Engine 73-Ladder 42. In addition, the Holy Name Society Scholastic Awards were presented, Chris said.
Last year, John O’Connor, OFM, then Provincial Minister, concelebrated the Holy Name Society Mass and spoke at the breakfast. The New York City Fire Department Holy Name Society comprises three boroughs — Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.