Twenty years ago, Jesuit Father Joseph S. Rooney was a physics professor at Fordham University in the Bronx, and in need of a summer assignment. Volunteering to fill in for priests of the Diocese of Salt Lake City who were away on vacation, Fr. Rooney saw an opportunity to do some apostolic work, but also focus on his hobby of photography.
“My motivation was, give me some apostolic work to do, but my hobby is photography, and this is a pretty state for taking pictures,” he said.
What he saw through the camera lens and in the people he served kept him coming back. During his many summers of service, Rooney served at almost every parish in southern Utah. When it came time for him to retire from teaching physics, Rooney knew exactly where he wanted to serve next; the Oregon Province of Jesuits provincial agreed that Fr. Rooney could help in the Diocese of Salt Lake City for a couple of years.
“And so here it is 14 years later and that ‘couple of years’ is still going,” Fr. Rooney said with a laugh.
Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, the diocese’s vicar general, said Fr. Rooney brings to Utah not only his faith, but also enthusiasm. “He certainly has the interest and the well-being of the people at heart and is willing to work for them,” he said. “I find him very generous in terms of responding to the needs of the people.”
“There’s a need for a Catholic priest here,” said Fr. Rooney, pointing out that there are 278 registered families in his entire parish, San Andres, which geographically covers an area so large that in contrast there are about 200 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wards in the same area; each ward has about 200 families. “There is an apostolic need.”
Although at 77 he is past retirement age, he continues working because “I’m supposed to be, just by my vows as a Jesuit, a person for others,” he said. “Eventually my health will force me out of it, but until that time occurs, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do it.”
To read the full article about the work of Father Rooney, please visit the Intermountain Catholic.