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Horace B. McKenna, SJ Papers

Identifier: GTM-821201

Scope and Contents

The Rev. Horace B. McKennam S.J Papers are comprised of files kept by Father McKenna at the time of his death. Consequently, they date primarily from the 1960's and 1970's and concern his activities as assistant pastor of St. Aloysius Church and his involvement in numerous projects. Father McKenna was a major force in the adoption of innovative social action programs to combat problems encountered in the inner-city. The Papers contain files on his work with the St. Vincent De Paul Society, as well as extensive material on the founding and operatyion of Sursum Corda, an housing project in the District of Columbia, and SOME (So Others May Eat), a soup kitchen facility. Father McKenna received numerous awards for his work in establishing such programs.

Also included in the Papers is a series of autobiographical tapes, recorded just prior to Father McKenna's death. The tapes contain reflections on experiences in a changing Church, highlighting specifically the role of black Catholics within that Church. Transcripts from the tapes can also be found in the Papers.


  • 1899 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 1982


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is on deposit at Georgetown University and is the property of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. Access to the Archives is governed by the Maryland Province. As stewards of the Archives, the Georgetown University Library’s Booth Family Center for Special Collections is responsible for managing access to the material based on policies set forth by the Maryland Province.


1. All Archives materials dated or bearing solely on events occurring before January 1, 1940, shall be open for review unless otherwise restricted, subject to Library policies and procedures.

2. All unpublished Archives materials dated or bearing solely on events occurring on or after January 1, 1940, shall be open for review upon request subject to a decision by the Provincial or someone designated by the Provincial.

3. Researchers may quote from the materials.

4. Researchers may take their own photographs of the material for scholarly and research purposes. Allowing photographs is not an authorization to publish or to deposit the material in another library or archive.

5. Written permission from the Maryland Province is required for the publication of substantive portions of any material or publication-quality reproductions of any material.

6. Material not yet processed is not available to researchers; permission will not be granted to access any unprocessed material.

7. Audiovisual, microfilm and other material in the Archives, the original of which is held in another archive, may be consulted and transcribed only. Written permission from the archive holding the original material is required for any duplication, reproduction, or publication of that material.

8. Use the Permission Request Form to request permission (i) to access any restricted processed material or (ii) to publish reproductions or quote substantive portions of the material. Send the completed form by email to the Booth Family Center for Special Collections (

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical note

Known for his ministry to the poor in southern Maryland and inner-city Washington, D.C., Horace B. McKenna was born on January 2, 1899, in New York City. One of 12 children, Horace was the son of Charles F. McKenna, a respected chemist, and Laura O'Neill McKenna. Educated at Fordham Prep, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson in 1916. After pursuing further studies at Woodstock College in Woodstock, Maryland, and teaching first overseas in the Philippine missions and then at Boston College High School, McKenna was ordained on June 23, 1929, by Archbishop Michael Curley of Baltimore. In 1931, he began his long service as a priest in southern Maryland, where he served ably for 22 years amidst poverty and segregation. Perhaps his most notable assignment was as pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in Ridge, Maryland. From 1953 to 1958, Father McKenna worked as assistant pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Washington, D.C. After a time as assistant pastor of Gesu Church in Philadelphia, he returned to St. Aloysius, where he served as assistant pastor for the rest of his life. In 1977, he co-founded SOME (So Others Might Eat), a community service center for the poor and homeless that began as a soup kitchen and expanded into a full-scale operation with medical and counseling services. McKenna was named by "Washingtonian Magazine" as one of the recipients of the "Washingtonian of the Year" award for 1977. He also assisted in the creation of Sursum Corda, a low-income housing project in Washington, D.C. Father McKenna died at the age of 83 on May 11, 1982. He is remembered as a dedicated friend of the poor and underprivileged in southern Maryland and the nation's capital area.


23 Cubic Feet (22 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Horace W. McKenna, circa 1982-2001.

Processing Information

This collection combines two accessions: GTM-821201 and GTM-010401. Materials have been rehoused in archival-quality boxes and folders. In 2023, materials that were housed in Box 14B were moved into a more appropriately sized container (now Box 23).

Horace B. McKenna, SJ Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2023: Edited for DACS compliance by John Zarrillo
  • 2023: Accession GTM-010401 added to the collection by John Zarrillo
  • 2023: Collection organized into series by John Zarrillo

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057