Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. George E. Von Kaenel, SJ, who died on May 19, 2022, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 94 years old. May he rest in peace.
George was born on October 15, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois. George graduated from Loyola Academy (which was on the campus of Loyola University Chicago at the time) before entering the former Chicago Province on August 20, 1945, at Milford Novitiate in Ohio. George was ordained on June 18, 1958, at West Baden College in West Baden, Indiana, and professed final vows at Xavier University on February 2, 1963.
While in the Society of Jesus, George earned a bachelor’s degree in classics (1950) and a master’s degree in English (1955) from Loyola University Chicago. He also earned licentiates in philosophy (1952) and Sacred Theology (1959) from West Baden College. George also did postgraduate studies in theology at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario (1969–1972).
During regency, George taught English, Latin, and speech at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland (1952–1955). He also served as the assistant director of athletics at Saint Ignatius High School. After ordination, George taught theology at Xavier University (1960–1964). George moved back to the Chicago area where he was spiritual director to diocesan seminarians at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois (1964–1965), and director of campus ministry at Loyola University Chicago (1965–1969).
After postgraduate studies in theology at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, George was director of adult Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Denver (1972–1975) before being missioned to Sacred Heart Radio and Television in St. Louis where he was producer, general manager, and executive director (1975–1987).
Following a sabbatical, George was an assistant to the president of Loyola University Chicago (1988–1989), codirector of campus ministry at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota (1989–1990), and a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha (1990–2000). As the Provincial Assistant for Social and International Ministries for the former Chicago Province (2000–2004), George focused his energy and talents on internal governance a before returning to pastoral work as pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Buffalo, Wyoming (2004–2006) and St. Louis Church in Glenrock, Wyoming (2004–2006); and he performed pastoral ministry in parishes and prisons in the Diocese of Lexington (2012–2017). In 2017 (at the age of 90), George was missioned to Colombiere Center to pray for the Church and the Society.
While George came across as a quiet, almost private man, he was very much appreciated in the various missions he received. Whether in his pastoral work in hospitals and parishes, his service in internal governance as a provincial assistant, his tireless labors in promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart, or his early years of teaching and campus ministry, George was a welcoming presence that opened people to the Lord and to the Gospel. And all of this was grounded in a deep and abiding love of that Lord which he nourished in his daily prayer, whether in praying the Divine Office or celebrating the Eucharist. George exemplified the biblical ideal of being steadfast in the sense of being dependable and consistent.
George’s availability was truly edifying; he engaged each and every mission with energy and enthusiasm. With each change in mission, he renewed his commitment to new responsibilities and new people with great devotion. And as his health diminished, George was remarkable in accepting new limits while living fully and joyfully.
In his years at Colombiere, George was very much appreciated by the staff. His warm smile, engaging conversation, and interest in the lives of the folks who cared for him were wonderful graces for all those he touched. One of the novices who was recently at Colombiere for his hospital experiment said it best: “Towards the end of our stint at Colombiere, George needed more and more help with daily tasks, and while it could be difficult for a person to realize he can no longer perform his routines independently, with me George always remained joyful, grateful, and humble. That is what I will remember about him.” Whatever the mission, that is what George brought to ministry throughout his life: joy, gratitude, and humility.
Sunday, May 22, 2022
9075 Big Lake Road
Clarkston, MI 48346
Monday, May 23, 2022