Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
I was born in New Orleans on June 14, 1915. I am a member of “The Greatest Generation.” I have survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Atomic Bomb, the Internet and Vatican II. At 97, I am a Jesuit for seventy years.
I owe my vocation to Brother Vincent, CSC. During the height of the “Great Depression,” I was attending Holy Cross High School in New Orleans. I went to class from 8 to 3, practiced football from 3 to 6 and then worked at Lenfant’s Drive Inn from 6 to 12.
One day Brother Vincent, the Prefect of Disciple, stopped me with, “You are sleeping in class.” I told him that I worked at night. He asked how much I was paid and I told him $1 a night. (In those days a dollar was worth a lot more than today.) Brother Vincent said, “Give up the job and come here and we will take care of everything.” At that time Holy Cross was also a boarding school. I left home and went to live at Holy Cross.
At once I began to blossom physically and mentally. During the summer vacations Brother Vincent was the Superior of the Holy Cross Summer Camp in Waveland, Miss. He made me the Camp Counselor.
In my senior year I was captain of our football team. That year Holy Cross beat Jesuit for the first time in football. Brother Vincent was so happy he gave the team the night out. We also won the City Championship and I was given a football scholarship to Notre Dame University.
Friends paid my train fare to South Bend. I lived under the Golden Dome of Our Lady and only a few yards from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Elmer Layden, one of the famous Four Horsemen, was the head coach. I played on the Freshman team, earned the Numeral and played in the Spring Game.
When I came home at the end of the school year, I had to go back to work again at Lenfant’s. They had just opened a new Seafood Restaurant on Canal Blvd. and made me the night manager. One night Moon Mullins, the head football coach at Loyola in New Orleans, came to the restaurant and offered me a scholarship to Loyola. I accepted it and went to live at the Ranch House, one of the athletes’ dorms, at Loyola.
In my Junior year at Loyola I became a Catholic. The next year I graduated with a degree in Chemistry. At that time I thought I had a vocation but was told that I would have to be a Catholic for at least 3 years before that would be possible. At that time the Shell Oil Refinery Co. at Norco, La, asked the school to recommend a graduating chemist. Fr. Roy, the President at Loyola, told me to take the job and work for a year and then if I was still interested come back and they would talk with me. I took the job.
World War II had just started. I was deferred from the draft because I was working in an essential industry. After working a year at Norco, I applied to the Provincial and was accepted. I entered the Novitiate at Grand Coteau, La. on March 15, l942. And was Confirmed while I was in the Novitiate.
After following the
regular course of the Society I was ordained a priest on June 17, l953.
Soon after ordination I went to Holy Cross to visit Brother Vincent. He
greeted me with, “How in the hell did you become a Jesuit?”
Only God knows the answer to that question!
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