Some 75 years after Fr. Kenneth Morris, CSV, professed his first vows as a Viatorian — and 12 years after his passing — his influence continues to resonate through the Viatorian Community, particularly with those who lead it.
Fr. Morris served as Provincial Superior from 1974 to 1984, when he was called to Rome to serve as Vicar General of the General Direction. He would later serve as acting Superior General from 1986 to 1988.
His style of pastoral leadership came to mind this month when Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, was elected the 19th Provincial Superior of the Province of Chicago. Fr. Francis and others that came before him all credited Fr. Morris with setting the standard for a pastoral leader who is caring and open to other ideas.
Take Fr. Patrick Render, CSV, who served as assistant provincial to Fr. Morris before succeeding him as Provincial in 1984.
“I think his person-oriented leadership was the greatest takeaway for my own learning and imitation,” Fr. Render says. “He was extremely person-oriented, took care with each religious, nudged where it was needed and seldom asserted commanding authority.”
Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, succeeded Fr. Render as Provincial, in 1992, and he too credits Fr. Morris as a mentor. In fact, to this day — when he now serves as Superior General — Fr. Egan keeps a photo of Fr. Morris on his desk as a reminder of his influential leadership.
“He was my novice master and mentor,” Fr. Egan says. “He was collaborative, he listened and he was a consensus-builder. He was someone who always said ‘yes’ when the community needed him, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Fr. Richard Rinn, CSV, served as Assistant Provincial during most of Fr. Egan’s years as Provincial, and he was reappointed to that role this month, by Fr. Francis.
“In my experience it has always been an honor and a privilege to be elected or appointed to the provincial council,” Fr. Rinn says. “For many of us, Ken Morris set the tone for council work– pastoral, prophetic, often consulted with the brethren and the laity in the administration of the province. And he always had a ready quote from Horace to sum things up — or at least he told us it was from Horace.”
Finally, Fr. Francis knew Fr. Morris when they lived together at the General Direction in Rome, starting in 1984, when Fr. Morris was the Vicar General and Fr. Francis was a student at Sant’Anselmo. Every Sunday they would wander about Rome and Fr. Morris would reminisce about his own student days and about the evolution of the Viatorian Community when he was Provincial.
“I was always particularly struck by his patience and charity in dealing with certain brothers in community who undergoing challenges,” Fr. Francis says. “He was a true pastor, bringing out the best in others through patient listening and acceptance. In this, Ken has long been my model of a real pastoral leader.”