Friar and woman

Fr. Kenan Freson celebrated his last Mass at St. Vivian Parish, followed by a reception during which attendees expressed their gratitude and love.

A humble Franciscan. Amy Hagedorn, a longtime parishioner at St. Vivian Parish in Cincinnati, recalls that is how Fr. Kenan Freson, OFM, often referred to himself over the years as he presided at weekend Masses there and at St. Bartholomew, also in Cincinnati. Parishioners came to love Fr. Kenan, and the feeling was mutual, so it was bittersweet when the friar celebrated his final liturgies with both faith communities in February.

Fr. Kenan began assisting with weekend Masses more than 35 years ago at the request of the pastor of St. Vivian. “After that, it just continued to grow and other pastors asked me to continue,” he said. “The pastors were always very welcoming and I got to know so many of the people. The parishioners really embraced me and I always enjoyed being there with them.”

The Hagedorn family’s friendship with Kenan blossomed after their oldest daughter was asked to carry Baby Jesus in a procession one Christmas. “When the platform moved, she almost fell into the manger,” Amy said. “That began our Christmas tradition of having our girls (Stephanie, Becky and Amanda) take a picture with Fr. Kenan every year.”

Friar poses with a cake honoring his service

Fr. Kenan poses with the cake honoring his service.

The Hagedorn girls are adults now, but the meaningful tradition has continued. As a farewell gift to Kenan, Gary Hagedorn, a 1974 graduate of Roger Bacon High School, compiled a book of the Christmas photos through the years.

It was the least they could do for the humble friar. “Fr. Kenan was just so loved by everyone at our parishes,” Amy said. “We have had so much transition with various pastors and he was our constant, always there to see us through. He’s just a great, loving, humble, caring man and had a way of inspiring you to live your faith.”

Fr. Kenan celebrated his last Mass at St. Bart on Feb. 11 and at St. Vivian on Feb. 12. The liturgies were well attended, with many parishioners who had moved away in attendance, along with teachers who had ministered at the parish schools. Both were followed by receptions where parishioners expressed their gratitude and wished Kenan well.

a friar sits among parishioners“That was little bit of a tear jerker,” he said. “I’m so grateful for the people and just want to say, ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ I want to thank the parishioners for their hospitality and prayers.”

“Fr. Kenan became a beloved character here at our parishes, a gentle soul in the spirt of St. Francis,” said Fr. Andrew Umberg, pastor of the S-7 Family of parishes that includes St. Vivian and St. Bart. “We wish him well in his well-deserved retirement.”

Photos courtesy of St. Vivan Parish