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By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T staff writer

FAIRLESS HILLS – The private Mass Father Brian Kean celebrated for his parents on Father’s Day last year was one of the best presents the then-newly ordained priest has ever bestowed upon his father Bruce.

“To see our son in that role as a priest – to see him take the bread and wine and consecrate it into the Body and Blood of Christ, and then to receive it from our son is one of the greatest blessings I will ever experience in my life,” said 62-year-old Bruce Kean who, with wife Geraldine, belongs to St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Fairless Hills, Bucks County.

“For me, that has carved out a new meaning for Father’s Day.”

Ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese in May of 2008, Father Kean, now 29, is the only child of Bruce and Geraldine Kean. He has been assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Chester County, since last June.

Watching his son thrive as a spiritual father this past year has brought Bruce Kean sheer delight. “His obvious love for the priesthood and his parish community always brings me to tears when I reflect on it.”

As a spiritual father, Father Kean said he takes his cues from his dad.

“My dad has always been a real central figure in my life, as both my parents have,” said Father Kean. “Particularly in priesthood, you are called to be a spiritual father to the people whom you are called to serve. Growing up, my dad was certainly a tremendous father figure to me.

“I learned a great deal from his selflessness, his love, his dedication to our family and his example to me,” he added.

Father Kean credits his father for teaching him to ride a bike; how to camp and fish during his Cub Scout years, and for consistently cheering him on at baseball, soccer and basketball games – “even though I wasn’t any good at basketball,” Father Kean said with a laugh.

Backpacking through national parks during Father Kean’s teenage years are among both father and son’s most cherished memories together.

“Whether we were in Yosemite, Yellowstone or Alaska, they were real father-son trips,” Father Kean said of the adventures.

Never afraid of failure, young Brian has always had a knack for quickly learning new things, his father said. In the fifth grade, he decided to play the piano in a student talent contest. It didn’t matter to Brian that he didn’t know how to play the piano. “In three weeks, he learned a tune and did very well,” Bruce Kean said.

Being a father, Bruce Kean said, is a gift “that I will always carry as a very deep blessing that I received from the Lord.”

He said he prays that other fathers have the privilege of having a son answer the call to the priesthood.

A native of Philadelphia, Bruce Kean is the third of six children of the late William and Anne Kean.

He graduated from St. Dominic School in Philadelphia in 1960 and from Father Judge High School for Boys in Philadelphia in 1964.

After Judge, he studied business at Peirce Junior College in Philadelphia before enlisting in the U.S. Navy, where he ran a supply center at the VC6 Squadron at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va.

Kean then went to work for the Pennwalt Corp., a Philadelphia-based chemical company. He worked as a business development manager for Korea and China before retiring from the company, later named Henkel, after 38 years.

In 1968, he married Geraldine Donnelly at St. Matthew Church in Northeast Philadelphia.

Among other church activities, Bruce Kean is a member of the parish pastoral council and pro-life group at St. Frances Cabrini.

To fathers raising sons today, Bruce Kean advises: “be obedient to the faith, be an active participant in the Catholic faith and understand your faith.”

Even as a young boy, “Brian always had a deep conviction of his Catholic faith,” his father said.

Growing up, Brian regularly accompanied his parents to daily and Sunday Mass at St. Frances Cabrini and prayed the rosary with them.

And on Saturdays, the Kean men – Brian, Bruce and Bruce’s father William – regularly made the Miraculous Medal novena and Mass at St. Elizabeth Parish in Bensalem.

When father looks at son at work or play, “I see the love of Christ,” Bruce Kean said. “He has developed into a young man that is really a gentleman,” Bruce Kean said.

The Church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest begins two days before Father’s Day. “Although we’re called to live out fatherhood in a different way, for most priests, if it wasn’t for the fine example of their dad, we wouldn’t be called to such a high vocation,” Father Kean said.

Regarding his devotion to his dad, he added, “I hope that I’ve made him proud.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or cchicoin@adphila.org.