A Tribute to an Exceptional Preacher: Fr. Jack Denny, OSA
One aspect of discerning your vocation as a potential Augustinian is to see the men whose footsteps you would follow. The Augustinians have been following the footsteps of our Holy Father, Saint Augustine of Hippo, for centuries. And from generation to generation, we learn more about our charism by learning more about our fellow Augustinians with whom we live in community. One friar was Father Jack Denny, O.S.A., who entered eternal life on June 20, 2016.
The following article was written by Carol Viau; she offers her testimonial of how Fr. Denny impacted many lives throughout his ministry, including her own. This article was originally published by The Mountaineer on June 21, 2016 and is reproduced here with permission.
The Rev. John T. Denny, O.S.A., passed away June 20, 2016, at the age of 58, surrounded by family and Augustinian brothers. He was pastor of Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, when he lost his battle with cancer.
This teacher of faith, lover of life, and enthusiastic preacher of the Gospel is mourned by many in Haywood County. As pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church in Maggie Valley from late 2007 to early 2011, he had a profound effect on the lives of hundreds of people in WNC, before being called back to his beloved Delaware County, Pennsylvania, where he was named pastor of his home parish.
Many people felt Fr. Jack Denny was the best preacher of the Gospel they had encountered in their life experience. He served with strong leadership, a great sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge of the history of Christianity.
St. Margaret’s was often packed when Fr. Denny said Mass. Parishioners said that they “always learned something” from his homilies. And, they laughed every time he brought up his beloved Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
It’s no wonder Fr. Denny often recalled his home. It’s where he was ordained in August 1990 and where he was principal of Monsignor Bonner High School (and by the way, was a member of Bonner’s graduating class of 1975). Delaware County is where he was a professor of theology at Villanova University — and since early 2011, the pastor of the parish where he was ordained as a priest into the Order of St. Augustine (O.S.A.). It’s where he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood last year.
Fr. Denny loved nature. He often spent his day off at Lake Junaluska, reflecting and enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains.
My husband and I first met Fr. Denny on a snowy day January 2008, when we were in Haywood County for the closing of our house. We had heard about St. Margaret of Scotland Church and wanted to go to Mass. Everyone in the beautiful small church was looking out the expansive windows, watching the snowfall in the mountains. Fr. Denny abbreviated his homily that day say saying he used to be a high school principal and he knew that on a ‘snow day,’ people’s minds would be on the snow. So, instead of him preaching, he said the congregation should just contemplate the beauty of God’s creation in nature.
He was a flower gardener, a presidential historian and loved a good meal. Fr. Denny liked to be around people and said he enjoyed having ‘the clergy express lane’ at Joey’s Pancake House. He had a commanding presence and could entertain any group of people with his stories.
He loved life and he loved the Lord. Fr. Denny was there when anyone just needed to talk. There have been many social media posts from parishioners whose spiritual life was touched and guided by him. We all feel blessed that our paths crossed with Fr. Jack Denny.
While heaven has gained a wonderful soul — Fr. Denny, we will miss you.