Committed to Continuing the Good Work Of Father Jim

Committed to Continuing the Good Work Of Father Jim

Our Mission

Our mission is to continue the work started by Father Jim McKenna, to assist through charitable contributions and to otherwise support those recovering from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. To raise funds for charitable contributions and to otherwise support organizations in assisting those recovering from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.

All contributions to the Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund are tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. The Fund is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization under the guidelines issued by the Internal Revenue Service. All contributions must be made payable to The Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund.

Who Is Father Jim McKenna?

To those of you who have known him in his lifetime, you will long remember his hardy handshake, infectious laugh, all-embracing hugs, and his message of recovery. For others, well...

Fr. Jim's lifelong dream to become a Catholic priest came true in 1960. At that time, he took a pledge to refrain from alcohol for five years. In 1965, while he was fulfilling his priestly duties, he started enjoying occasional cocktails. In 1972, with permission from the diocese, he joined the Trappist Monks. After a year at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, he realized he was too "people oriented" for the life of a contemplative monk and returned to parish work.

Fr. Jim's assignments were varied and he performed them diligently. He became a chaplain at Ridgewood's Valley Hospital when he became aware that he was burning out. He went for an evaluation and it was decided that while he was a good priest, he was also an alcoholic. After three months in Guest House in Minnesota, an addiction treatment rehab for Catholic clergy and religious, he returned to Bergen County and attended AA meetings.

Fr. Jim was assigned to Oradell's St. Joseph's R.C. Church where he started the recovery mass for anyone affected by the disease of alcoholism, with the hope of giving more people an opportunity to leave the "hell" of alcoholism and drug addiction and perhaps find the "heaven of sobriety." The third Saturday mass began with 18 people and quickly spread to over 500. Fr. Jim began each mass with "Hello, my name is Jim and I am an alcoholic" and all felt welcome.

In 1995, he was appointed pastor at Closter's St. Mary's R.C. Church and served faithfully for 10 years.

In 2005, he retired to Ramsey's St. Paul's R.C. Church where Monsignor Lawrence Cull and he merged their two recovery masses and continue even today.

Sadly, just after his retirement, Fr. Jim faced imminent death due to cancer of the brain. But, just before doing so, our wounded hero inspired The Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund to help others in any way possible to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.

Fr. Jim passed away peacefully on May 23, 2006, and through this fund, his legacy continues.

Our History

His prayerful hands were God's hands as he had guided us through sobriety and a life of serenity. We will be forever grateful to him and to the creation of the Third Saturday Recovery Mass which continues to be a means to improve our conscious contact with a Higher Power. We saw his life through his homilies at masses and his inspiring words during those one-on-one moments as he lived his life as an example to us. Whether you were a Roman Catholic or a friend of Bill W's or even another face in this human condition, we identified with this man who did not talk to us with fire and brimstone but instead with a compassionate, understanding, and motivating voice. A caring listener, always with a joke and a cup of coffee in his hand, he had been to us a brother, an uncle, a friend, a sponsor, a priest, a teacher. To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in the play A Man for All Seasons which Jim loved, "Father Jim McKenna you were a fine teacher. Perhaps even a great one. And who knows it? You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public that."

At Christmas time in 2005, our beloved teacher, Fr. Jim, was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Throughout his illness, he maintained his sense of humor, his dignity, and his honesty. He was always present for anyone who needed counseling, a hug, or even just a smile, no matter how poor his health had gotten.

He led us in our worship at the Recovery Mass until April 2006 and occasionally concerned that his presence at the Mass in that condition would be a distraction to us. In his humble way, he never wanted the Mass to be about him, it was always about the liturgy and our conscious contact with our Higher Power.

Seeing his earthly journey coming to an end, the Wednesday before he died, Fr. Jim summoned some of his family, a few friends, and a couple of men from the Ladder Project to his sister's home. In the course of the next hour, he set us to task in order to continue carrying the message of hope by assisting those of us still struggling with addiction.

Wanting to call the group, "The Hook", a few of us not understanding what it meant, balked and thought that his memory was of utmost importance. Grudgingly, he acquiesced by allowing us to call ourselves The Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund. We all could speculate on "The Hook". Was it to be "the Hook and Ladder Project"? Was the hook to be the branding of our group that would grab people's attention? Was the hook to be the moment we take hold of another human being in order to help them? We don't know for certain, but as his homilies left us with food for the soul, we at the Father Jim McKenna Memorial Fund strive to do our best at what he did so well. Sometimes, we have to be quiet, unassuming, and think what would Jim do? And you know if we pray for patience... the answer comes.