Kevin Kennelly, left, and Jean Kennelly. center, after the funeral for their son, Mt. Carmel High School student Kevin Kennelly Jr. , at St. Barnabas Church in Chicago on Saturday, July 9, 2011. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2011 2:12AM
The day their son Kevin Kennelly was put on life support, Jean and Kevin Kennelly waited by his side at St. Anthony Hospital in Crown Point, Ind.
They remembered being in another hospital room the day he was born, the joy of cradling him in their arms for the first time.
Mount Carmel High School president the Rev. Tony Mazurkiewicz shared this memory and more during Kevin Kennelly’s funeral Mass on Saturday at St. Barnabas Church, 10134 S. Longwood Drive, Chicago.
Kennelly, 17, of the 9900 block of South Damen Avenue in Chicago, died Wednesday of blunt force trauma to the head two days after he was involved in a fight on a beach in Indiana, authorities said. He was set to be a senior at Mount Carmel in the fall.
James K. Malecek, 19, of Chicago, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and battery in Kennelly’s death, police said. He is free on a $25,000 bond.
Friends and classmates lined the church entrance leading up to the pew, flanking Kennelly’s casket as the pall bearers brought it to the altar.
Hundreds of people packed the church, and the service was standing-room only. Firefighters stood at in rear of the building in solidarity with Kevin Kennelly Sr., a Chicago firefighter.
Mazurkiewicz delivered the mass. Kennelly’s relatives and friends participated throughout the service, giving the prayers of the faithful, presenting the gifts and reading passages from the Gospels.
Setting a somber tone for the service, Drew Cunniff read from the Book of Wisdom.
“The just ones, though they die early, shall be at rest,” Cunniff said.
Mazurkiewicz gave the homily, describing Kennelly a “faith-filled young man. When asked who attended Sunday service in theology class, he always raised his hand — even for those 8:30 a.m. Masses.
“For a young man, that’s a lot to ask,” Mazurkiewicz said, smiling.
Kennelly enjoyed volunteering and spent time in Milwaukee working with the disadvantaged, Mazurkiewicz said. He had a quality that made people want to be around him.
“In one of his final papers, he wrote that the little things we do in life can go a long way, especially in the life of others,” Mazurkiewicz said.
Mazurkiewicz said Kennelly’s death reminds all parents of the “gift of parenthood and that can be taken away so fast.” For young people, Kennelly’s death is a reminder that life is hard sometimes and life also is fragile, he said.
“The harsh reality is we can’t see through this alone,” he said. “We need Christ.”
He described Kennelly’s parents holding each other up at the chapel at the hospital for support.
“You knew faith then, and you know faith now,” he said. “You trust Christ is with you and in the midst of it.”
Mazurkiewicz praised the parents’ decision to donate Kennelly’s organs, so another family could have life in his death.
“Kevin Kennelly, though he died early, is at rest,” Mazurkiewicz said.
After the Communion, Kennelly’s uncle, Joseph Kennelly, reflected on his nephew’s life, saying that the crowded church reminded him of midnight Mass.
Joseph Kennelly said his nephew loved Chicago, the city’s Beverly community, St. Barnabas and Mount Carmel.
“He liked to see people laugh,” Joseph Kennelly said. “He’d have a bad day pitching ... and he’d go to the dugout and say, ‘coach, what’s my ERA?’ ”
Joseph Kennelly said Kevin’s mom would and did do everything for him and that Kennelly imitated his father in every way. He wore Chicago firefighter T-shirts, loved Irish music and could work with his hands.
Joseph Kennelly encouraged all in attendance to remember the things that made Kevin Kennelly proud of them.
“Where Kevin is, he’ll know it,” he said. “Thank God for the 17 years we were blessed with Kevin Kennelly Jr.”
After the service, Kennelly’s casket was led out out of the church and into the cloudless sunshine, where bagpipers greeted his procession with a song.