Bishop John Francis Kinney arrived at the Diocese of St. Cloud in 1995, and soon began focusing on support for the poor and disadvantaged.

He asked each parish to start a social ministry to address community needs and to advocate for related legislation. He spearheaded the creation of the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of St. Cloud to provide financial aid to students in Catholic education and other ministries.

A board member of Catholic Relief Services during the 1990s, Kinney traveled to countries in Africa and Asia to understand global issues and offer support.

He worked with the Bismarck Diocese to create a mission in Kenya, and was instrumental in launching a St. Cloud Diocese partnership with the Homa Bay Diocese in Kenya.

Kinney died Sept. 27 at age 82.

"He was passionate about those in the margins, about social justice," said Jane Marrin, chancellor of the St. Cloud Diocese and a personal friend. "He was a strong advocate for Catholic social teachings and how we can live them on a day-to-day basis."

Kinney, son of the late John and Marie Kinney, was born in Oelwein, Iowa, in 1937. He graduated from DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, studied for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, and was ordained in 1963. He earned a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

Kinney's long career began as an assistant pastor in Minneapolis in 1963. For the next 20 years, he served in leadership roles at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, including auxiliary bishop, chancellor and vicar for parishes.

In 1982, he was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D. In 1995, he became bishop of the St. Cloud Diocese, where he remained until his retirement in 2013.

Bishop Donald Kettler, who succeeded Kinney in St. Cloud, called him "a kind and gracious pastoral leader."

"He was a strong defender of the dignity of every human being, and his love for the church was evident both in his public ministry and personal life," Kettler said in a statement.

Kinney shared some of his priorities in public ministry in a 1998 pastoral letter.

"Our Catholic Church always has taught that we have a special obligation to those who are poor, to those in our community and around the world who are most in need," he wrote. "To love as Jesus loves calls us to serve anyone in need — without questioning, without judging, without expecting a reward."

Cate Coghlan, former chancellor at the St. Cloud Diocese who also worked with Kinney in Bismarck, said Kinney was at the forefront of hiring women for diocese leadership.

"He valued and appreciated the role of women in the church," Coghlan said. "He demonstrated that in his hirings. … Women didn't hit glass ceilings."

Kinney, an Irish-American, had a terrific sense of humor and enjoyed socializing, colleagues said. He threw "the best Christmas parties" for staff both in Bismarck and St. Cloud, Coghlan said.

He also held dinner parties in his home. He enjoyed a good meal, a good book, but also time alone.

Marrin called him a "deeply spiritual man."

"Prayer was an important part of his daily life," Marrin said. "He recognized our need to take time off to reflect and take care of self … He will be missed."

Services have been held.

Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511