Jesuit Father Joseph Fennell at 100

Jesuit Father Joseph FennellShare

Jesuit Father Joseph Fennell is 100 years old today, the first New England Province Jesuit to be a centenarian. When asked what his wishes for 2011 were, Fr. Fennell joked, “I want to be on a fast train to heaven with no stops — after March 23.”

Fr. Fennell lives in Campion Health Center in Weston, Mass., where his daily routine includes listening to the bible on tape, tuning in to NPR and chatting with visitors. He attributed his longevity to “exercise, especially golf, no smoking and no drinking.”

His father had slated him to be a lawyer, but Fennell felt a strong calling to be a priest. While at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vt., he was inspired by well-known missionary Jesuit Father Bernard Hubbard, who encouraged him to consider a religious vocation. In 1933, Fennell entered the Society of Jesus.

Fr. Fennell in 1960 in Baghdad with his chemistry students.

Fr. Fennell in 1960 in Baghdad with his chemistry students.

Fennell spent many years teaching at Baghdad College in Iraq, until the expulsion of the Jesuits from Baghdad in 1969; he then taught at the Jesuits’ Cranwell Prep (now closed) in Lenox, Mass., and served at a parish in Concord, Mass.

Fennell said he has “a wonderful duty” as a retired priest to pray daily for the church and the Society, and he is still inspired by a quote from his 5th grade teacher: “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

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