An unforgiving decade hasn’t checked Fr Bill Kennedy's stride. Every day the 83-year-old ACT parish priest says Mass, comforts the sick and dying at Clare Holland hospice and calls in at St Joseph’s primary school, reports The Canberra Times.
Ten years ago two retired doctors were among St Vincent de Paul volunteers at a fortnightly meeting Father Kennedy never missed, in a room adjoining the church.
A tall young man approached, asking them for money and became aggressive. So the parish priest left the meeting and led him onto the steps outside. Before he could offer money, Father Kennedy’s palate and jaw were broken. His nose was broken in two places, one eye socket was damaged and both eyes were left blackened.
The smack of the 74 year-old’s head hitting the concrete brought the volunteers to their feet. Later Father Kennedy asked for more information. 'I said to the doctor, "If those two doctors hadn’t been there and people who heard that scuffle hadn’t come out and picked me up, what would have happened?"
'He said "Oh well, you would have died."'
After plastic surgery to reconstruct much of his face, re-alignment of his teeth and a steel plate inserted above his mouth, he was able to continue preaching. His face around the plate and screws remains numb. Continual talking is painful.
Regaining his strength, Father Kennedy returned to his home town of Crookwell and asked the parish priest to anoint him. 'People often refer to this as last rites, of course that’s a misnomer in a way, it’s meant to be received when a person is sick or injured or infirm or aged,' he said.
He was baptised at St Mary’s in Crookwell, a beautiful stone church where he learnt the Latin Mass as an altar boy, made his first confession, received his first Communion, was confirmed and ordained a priest.
A decade after that bashing, when the clock inside St Joseph’s church chimes 6pm each Saturday, the organist begins playing and Father Kennedy leads his congregation in Hail Redeemer, King Divine.
FULL STORY Father Bill Kennedy, survivor, continues the good fight (The Canberra Times)