Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Dennis P. Ahern, SJ, who died on June 13, 2023, at the Jesuit community at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan where he had been living since 2016. He was 84 years old. May he rest in peace.
Dennis was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Jean and Paul Ahern as the third of six children. He graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1956 and attended Georgetown University for one year before entering the novitiate in Milford, Ohio in 1957. After taking vows in 1959, Dennis studied at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor’s degree in Latin and English. He completed his philosophy studies at West Baden in 1964 after which he was missioned to a teaching regency at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago where he taught Latin and French. In 1967 he moved to North Aurora, Illinois, for his theological studies and was ordained there in June 1970. The newly ordained Fr. Ahern was missioned to his alma mater of St. Xavier High School where he taught French, religious education and helped with the drama club. Dennis served as pastor of the Community of Hope, a non-territorial parish in Cincinnati, for three years before working in campus ministries at both Xavier University and Loyola University Chicago. In 2001, he was missioned to St. Xavier High School to work as the chaplain to alumni which he did until 2016 when his health necessitated a move to Colombiere.
Dennis loved stories, making connections, and all things Cincinnati. Listening to him, it could sound like he was either related to or knew everyone in the Queen City. His teaching at St. Xavier High School along with his pastoral work at Xavier University and Bellarmine Parish were wonderful opportunities to serve the Church of Cincinnati with his gentle spirit, listening heart, and warm engagement. He delighted in preparing couples for their wedding and was faithful in assisting parishioners who were seeking annulments. On either side, his inviting presence was a wonderful gift to all those he served with competence, skill, and pastoral care. Upon hearing of his death, one couple shared that:
Denny married us in 1984 at Bellarmine Chapel. When we saw him for the first time in many years on a BB Riverboat opening faculty dinner, he remembered not only our names and faces, but he recited our anniversary date and year. He told us he prays for every couple he marries on their anniversaries. He also sent us a special card for our 25th anniversary. He was a gem.
From golf coach to teacher of Latin and French, from chaplain to pastor, from writer to administrator, Dennis was a wonderful presence to students, colleagues, friends, and, of course, his own family. At St X, he was the driving force in creating the history and memory wall that lines the corridors at the high school. His love of history was lived out in this unique gift. He continued to work on this project even after receiving his mission to the Colombiere health care community. In addition, his work in the alumni and development offices allowed him to be present to all kinds of alumni and their families at key moments in their lives. He was a true pastor!
His last couple of years were really challenging, which allowed him only to remember a few names and some older stories. You could always get him to tell a story which brought out his amazing smile and warm eyes and gentle spirit during its telling.
Dennis is preceded in death by his mother, father and sister Kathleen. He is survived by his sisters Patricia and Ann as well as his brothers Neal and Mark.