Kevin Keenan started as Director of the Office of Communications 11 years ago.
My journey through the Diocese of Buffalo as director of Communications and editor-in-chief of this paper began more than 11 years ago and has been one of many twists and turns, ups and downs and unexpected detours, much of which has been reflected in the pages of the Western New York Catholic and in my monthly columns.
After 130 columns and about a half dozen different column photos, my journey is about to take another turn. Yesterday, I moved down Main Street to open Keenan Communications Group (www.keenancommunicationsgroup.com), a firm that will specialize in social media, public relations, crisis communications and grassroots advocacy.
Through KCG, I will continue to serve as chief communications counsel to Bishop Edward U. Kmiec and will remain as the spokesman for the Diocese of Buffalo.
After making the announcement that I would be leaving the diocese, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my tenure working for the Church. It has been an incredible journey that has allowed me a front row seat during one of the most fascinating, and some would say contentious, times in the history of the Catholic Church in the eight counties of Western New York.
Looking back on the columns and stories I have written is like opening a time capsule.
We’ve used this page and the entire paper to help to tell the story of how the people of the Diocese of Buffalo live their faith lives.
I’ve written about Blessed John Paul II, Venerable Nelson Baker and the Journey in Faith and Grace. There was a 2002 column about then Buffalo Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe and how a losing team put his Catholic faith to the test. Some things never change.
On occasion, I would let the words and thoughts of others fill this space. In October 2001, we focused on the messages from various pastors following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. I hope they provided some much-needed spiritual comfort.
Bishop Edward U. Kmiec has been a frequent subject for this column. Since his arrival in 2004, the bishop has led the diocese through significant change, always faithful to his role as the spiritual leader of close to 700,000 Catholics. I have learned a great deal from Bishop Kmiec, observing how present and gracious he is with people as he lives out his episcopal motto of “Charity and Service” every day.
Two of the most memorable and commented on columns I wrote followed the passing of my mom and dad. It was a privilege to share their stories. Both columns connected with a lot of readers, I think, because many people had similar experiences with their own parents.
In January 2010, I wrote about the late Father Merrick Bednar, a diocesan priest who died too young. His brother, Martial, had written a book about Father Bednar’s life, his health struggles, and how his faith not only survived, but thrived, even in his darkest moments. Father Bednar was about my age; we grew up in St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean and lived just seven blocks from each other, but I didn’t know him. This column allowed me the opportunity to share the story of a heroic priest and man.
This column has focused on the successes of our Catholic schools, Catholic Charities and the integration of Buffalo’s Catholic parishes.
In addition to serving as Western New York Catholic editor-in-chief, I also hosted diocesan radio and television programs, blogged on the diocesan website and established our Facebook and Twitter sites.
On a number of levels, this has been a ministry of presence, present through the media as a representative of the bishop and the Church and especially present to those in our parishes who have lost loved ones.
When there are high-profile funerals in any of our parishes, we serve as a buffer between families and the media. It now stands among the most important aspects of our ministry. We make sure that families are aware that media may want to cover the funeral of their loved one, but that the extent of that coverage on parish property rests solely with the family.
This aspect of our ministry began to evolve at the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve had too many combat-related military funerals in the diocese over the past 10 years, 15 funerals and memorial services related to Flight 3407, and countless other funerals involving accidental deaths and the passing of prominent Catholics in the diocese.
For the past 11 years, it has been my privilege to serve Bishop Kmiec, his predecessor, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, our auxiliary bishop, Bishop Edward M. Grosz, our beloved auxiliary bishop emeritus, Bishop Bernard J. McLaughlin, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse and former diocesan administrator, as well as the priests, deacons, women and men religious and the laity of our diocese.
I could not have reached this point without the tremendous work and support of my colleagues in the Office of Communications who work on the Catholic Directory, Communications and public relations, Daybreak TV Productions, diocesan radio and the Western New York Catholic. When it comes to professionalism and delivering the Good News through various media, they are without peer. I was blessed to be surrounded by them.
As I leave the diocese, I take with me a Catholic faith that has been strengthened because of my experiences.
Indeed, it has been a good journey.
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