The Legacy of Father John T. Denny, O.S.A.

The late Father John Denny, O.S.A. is credited for establishing many faith traditions at Bonner that continue today, including the Rosary Rally and the Cross Service.

We sat down with Father Joseph Mostardi, O.S.A. '67, his friend and former colleague, to learn more about Father Denny.  

How did you know Father Denny? 

"I knew Father Denny from when he was a child. He was just John Denny then. His family shopped in my father's grocery store. He was nine years younger than me, but he and his six brothers all went to Bonner; one was a year older, and another a year younger than me. 

From 1981 to 1986, I served as the full-time chaplain at Bonner. John was looking for a job. Since he graduated with a history degree from Boston College and spent time with the Augustinians, he accepted a job to teach theology at Bonner. That's when we really began a friendship. I asked John to join me as a class moderator to support student activities, and we collaborated in this role together for four years." 

When did John Denny become Father Denny?

"In our four years together at Bonner, John considered returning to the seminary to become a priest. Bonner was approximately 900-1,000 boys at the time. As a full-time chaplain, I prepared the retreats, among other things. Since John was interested in returning to seminary, I encouraged him to participate in the events, which allowed him to see what he could do as a priest beyond being a teacher. He became very involved in the spiritual things we did at Bonner. You could say I was a mentor to him. 

During this time, John also became very close to Father Bill Atkinson. Father Atkinson had quadriplegia due to a toboggan accident in 1965. He hit a tree, and it severed his spinal cord. John was one of the many people who volunteered to care for Father Atkinson until he died in September 2006. His relationship with Father Atkinson also inspired John's decision to pursue God's calling to rejoin the Augustinians and pursue seminary full-time in 1986."

 When did Father Denny return to Bonner?

 "After he became ordained in 1991, Father Denny returned to Bonner, serving as a teacher from 1990 to 1999, as chaplain from 1990 to 1993, principal from 1993 to 1999, and school president from 1999 to 2001. Counting his student years, John spent nearly 20 years at Bonner. He had strong family connections to the school." 

 Can you tell us about his personality? What was he like?

 "Father Denny commanded a very big room. He was a very vibrant personality. He was a wonderful preacher and had a great sense of humor. People used to imitate his laugh all the time. 

 What was Father Denny's role in creating and continuing faith traditions at Bonner?

He desired to maintain the faith perspective at Bonner, especially after the school opened to other faith traditions. As a student at Bonner, there were 47 Augustinians, which significantly decreased with time. Father Denny played a role in making sure their presence and impact continued. He was very involved in ensuring that no Catholic traditions were lost – he worked hard at maintaining them." 

 What did his Catholic faith mean to him?

 "His faith meant everything to him. Many students would come to him for guidance and counseling because of his ability to approach them in a very realistic way. So, he found himself very involved in the students' lives, officiating the weddings of countless former Bonner and Villanova University students and often presiding at funerals because families knew him. 

 After leaving Bonner, Father Denny joined me at Villanova University, where he served as the Province's Vocation Director, a member of Fray Luis de Leon Friary, an Adjunct Professor of Theology, and the University Law School chaplain from 2001 to 2007."