Reverend John D. Dennehy ‘79/ M.Div. ‘84

"I've learned a long time ago that it's not about me, it's about how God works through me."

Published in October 2020

Reverend John D. Dennehy '79/ M.Div.‘84Hailing from his hometown in Union City, NJ, Rev. John Dennehy (widely known as Father John) has been the Seton Hall University Chaplain for 17 years. One of seven siblings, his family grew up always maintaining a close relationship with the church. While Father John wasn't always certain if he wanted to become a priest, he stepped out on faith, and joined the Divinity School at Seton Hall University, which is now known as The College Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at St. Andrew's Hall.

In a personal interview, Father John recalled the struggles throughout the 60s and 70s, noting that studying priesthood wasn't always appreciated as the gift that it is, and he realized how important it was to hang out with people who believed in the same things that he did. The first in his family to attend college, Father John explains that his spiritual journey toward his vocation was gradual and that all of his experiences made him stronger and helped him to develop an even deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. He says, "God called me and finally I had the courage to say 'yes' and walk up the steps of Sacred Heart Cathedral on May 30th of 1981 and become an ordained priest."

Father John became Seton Hall's University Chaplain in 2003. He spends most of his time cultivating positive relationships with students and spiritually serving the Seton Hall community. Many students have expressed fond memories of him standing at his post outside of Duffy Hall as classes changed or offering candy during exam times. Father John says that he tries to extend a simple “good morning” or “good afternoon” to those he passes throughout the day. He notes, "I do simple things. I stand out there and I try to let students know that God loves them, that the church loves them, and that Seton Hall loves them, and that no matter who you are, you are a loved person on this campus." He continues saying, "My hero is Jesus Christ, and with all my limitations, when people walk away from me, it would be wonderful if they thought that they met an aspect of Jesus Christ." This is his ultimate goal.

Briefly in the interview, Father John talked about his love of sports and even shared that he wanted to be a baseball player for a long time. Spotted at several sporting events, like some of the Seton Hall Pirates men's basketball games, Father John shares that "sports are a great way to develop a sense of teamwork and purpose. It builds friendships and community and brings joy to a lot of people. I hope sports never loses that." Whether supporting Pirates on the court, track, or field, Father John says that he is there to "root them on, to support them… we're here to lift each other up."

For many years, Father John has lived by the notion that presence makes a difference and has appreciated the occasional moments when people have shared the ways in which he has made a significant difference in their lives saying, "It's nice to know that God touched them through me."

Father John received his bachelor's degree in History in 1979, and his Master of Divinity in 1984. In 2015, he received the President's Award for Student Service. He has also collaborated with campus services like Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for their online Q+A forum titled "What's Up Doc?" to help inform students of ways to cope with the process of topics like grief and loss.