Dominican Father Joseph Peter Kenny, 77, a missionary to Africa for nearly 50 years, died of cancer on January 28, 2013 in Washington DC. A native of Chicago, Father Joe left for Nigeria at the request of the Holy See for a resource person knowledgeable in Arabic and Islam, since there was a need at the very least to secure understanding and peace between the country’s large Christian and Muslim communities.
Father Joe took time to learn Arabic in Rome, Tunisia, and Cairo, and to obtain a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Edinburgh, UK. After working in northern Nigeria, he taught subjects on Islamic philosophy and theology for 22 years at the government-owned University of Ibadan, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies. He also helped develop the Dominican Institute in Ibadan, where he taught courses on philosophy, theology, and communications for hundreds of lay students and seminarians, many of whom are now missionary priests in the United States.
He was fluent in 13 languages and recently travelled to both Iran and Lebanon in the interest of inter-faith dialogue. A citizen of Nigeria and well as the United States, he was a consultant to the Association of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the Nigerian Field Society. He wrote over articles 230 and books, with particular emphasis on Christian-Muslim relations. These, together with the largest collection of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, are on his website: www.josephkenny.joyeurs.com.
Father Joe is survived by his brothers Henry and Paul, and sisters Catherine and Margaret, as well as his fellow Nigerian Dominican priests and laity, and all who are brothers and sisters in Christ. A funeral Mass will be held for him at the Dominican House of Studies, 487 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington D.C. 20017 on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 11:00 AM. In lieu of flowers Father Joe requested that donations be made to the Dominican University of Nigeria Development Fund (USA), c/o Henry Kenny, 1428 Lady Bird Drive, McLean, Virginia 22101.