Remembering Fr. Dennis McNally, SJ, beloved painter and professor of fine arts at Saint Joseph’s University

Rev. Dennis E. McNally, SJ, was born in Flushing, NY on March 3, 1944. He graduated from Regis High School and entered the Novitiate of St. Andrew on Hudson in 1964. He earned his bachelor’s in History from Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, NY, a master’s in Art Education from New York University and his Master of Divinity from Weston Jesuit Community in Massachusetts. He also received a doctorate in Studio Arts from New York University, completing much of his studies in Italy. He was ordained a priest on June 8, 1974.

Catholic priests, especially Jesuits, rarely call home the same place for long periods of time. Fr. McNally, however, after serving for a year following ordination at a parish in Tucson, AZ, came to call Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia home for nearly 50 years. Arriving in 1975 as an instructor of fine arts, he began what would become a 45-year tenure at the school, teaching, leading and ministering to countless students across multiple generations. His key roles included professor of fine arts, co-director of the University gallery, resident advisor and minister, and chair of the Fine Arts Department. He especially enjoyed leading students through immersion experiences.

A prolific painter himself, Fr. McNally’s work reflected his faith, and he often likened his process of painting to prayer. He enjoyed life and work to the end, continuing to teach until his passing on May 6, 2020 at the age of 76. Saint Joseph’s University was set to award Fr. McNally the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and will do so posthumously in his honor.

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