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The Aquilian

RJ Kenna: A man with a calling

By Alex Svenburg –

In a world that seems increasingly secular, Gonzaga senior R.J. Kenna is a stand out. While most people nowadays wish to become businessmen or lawyers, Kenna has a different calling; he plans on becoming a priest.

“Ever since I was little I always had the idea of it. It wasn’t one specific moment; it was just kind of over time it developed more and more. I’ve always had a deep faith and a deep relationship with God, it’s just kind of through my day-to-day life,” Kenna explained.

Kenna’s decision to follow his vocation to become a priest wasn’t an easy one. 

“Earlier, last summer, I was kind of at the point where I wanted to play lacrosse in college, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. But I’ve also always had this idea of going to seminary and becoming a priest. It was through a lot of prayer that I was able to understand more of what my vocation was,” Kenna said.

Many have helped encourage Kenna as he explores this call to vocations.

“R.J. is a good young man with great faith. The majority of mornings you can find him at daily Mass, which guides him through his day, his daily activities and through his relationships. RJ always has a smile to share and a helping hand for all,” said Jonathan Ruano, assistant director of campus ministry.

Kenna acknowledges that becoming a priest isn’t something very common, especially in today’s increasingly secular world.

“Society as a whole is more secular than it used to be. The faith as a whole is not as strong as it used to be inside the Catholic church. It’s proven that in areas where the faith is super strong that vocations are as strong as they ever have been. But in areas where it’s kind of been a more secular church as a whole it has been slowly declining,” Kenna said.

Kenna credits his strong faith on being able to shut out the noise of our busy world.

“One thing I think has a huge factor in it is silence. I think a lot of people are called but not everybody understands because our culture is so noisy as John Paul the II says and this is a huge problem because vocations grow in silence. This was always something that stuck with me when I heard that quote because it always allowed me to just be in silence or be okay with silence for a period of time. Kids are always listening to music  or doing things like that, but I think it’s that peacefulness that a lot of people need,” Kenna said.

Kenna takes time to pray on a recent Kairos retreat where he was a student leader.

A consistent daily routine allows Kenna to be able to maintain a strong relationship with God.

“I’ll wake up and say a quick prayer on my way to school, and once I get to school I’ll say morning prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel followed by mass after that. I’ll usually do little things throughout the day just kind of recognizing that I’m with God. In the evening, I’ll go to adoration usually for 30 minutes to an hour. In that hour, I’ll usually say a rosary I’ll say evening prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours. That’s like a set prayer that the priests say. They say five times a day; I only say it three times a day. And then I’ll sit in silence for a while. It depends on the day, and then right before I go to bed, I’ll say night prayer, and then I’ll go to bed after that,” Kenna said, as he explained his daily prayer times.

Kenna makes sure to repeat this routine everyday— on top of his academics being on the varsity lacrosse team, as well as participating in other hobbies and activities.

Becoming a priest is not easy, and it comes with many sacrifices. Playing lacrosse is one of Kenna’s many passions. Kenna has played varsity for two years, and he has played lacrosse since he was eight years old. However, in order to become a priest, Kenna will have to give up one of his long-time passions.

“Because of seminary next year, I won’t be able to play lacrosse. I’ll be at John Paul the II, but I’ll be studying at Catholic University. Catholic University does have a lacrosse team, but with the schedule, it doesn’t really line up,” Kenna said. 

Kenna acknowledges that his future isn’t completely certain. “It might change three or four years from now, but [God] will let me know of that.”

But at the moment, becoming a priest is something Kenna feels he’s meant to do.

“I feel that this is something that [God] is calling me to do especially at this moment,” he said.


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  • S

    Stephen SzolosiMar 20, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for the story on RJ and his discernment!

  • D

    Dominick PuglieseMar 20, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    Very well-done portrait of a great guy. Strong work Alex and Godspeed RJ!