For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications
HARTFORD, Conn. — June 16, 2015 — Fr. James Patrick Kelly, OFM, a member of Holy Name Province, the largest community of Franciscan friars in the United States, will celebrate 50 years as a friar this month.
With 70 priests, nuns or religious relatives on both sides of his Irish Catholic family, Fr. Kelly seemed almost destined to consider religious life. The Boston native began to consider joining the Order of Friars Minor at age 12, after meeting a friar during a pilgrimage to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. After graduating from high school in 1962, Fr. Kelly attended Holy Name Province’s minor seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., and was received into the Order in 1964, professing first vows one year later.
While studying philosophy and theology as a student friar, Fr. Kelly became interested in psychology. After he was ordained a priest in 1971, he attended St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., where he earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling in 1975. He moved to New York City, where he enrolled in Fordham University, graduating with a doctorate in counseling and personnel services in 1979.
In 1978, he founded and began directing FrancisCare, a counseling center. Over the years, the center was located in various towns of northern New Jersey and served people of all faith traditions. After 35 years, FrancisCare closed. In 2011, Fr. Kelly became executive director of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Two years later, he took a sabbatical, and in 2014, he was assigned to St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, where he ministers today. He enjoys celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and preaching, and is establishing a spiritual counseling program at the parish.
“I always got great satisfaction and joy out of my work,” he said. “Preaching and teaching are my strongest gifts.”
Throughout his years as a friar, he has worked to raise money to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe, where his cousin, Sr. Bridget Kelly of the Little Company of Mary, serves as a medical missionary.
“While traveling from the airport to visit her, I saw hundreds of coffins for HIV/AIDS victims lined up,” he said. “For me, it was impossible to do nothing to help stop this epidemic.”
Fr. Kelly and other friars marking their golden and silver jubilees will be honored at a 5:30 p.m. Mass on June 24 at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City. All are invited to attend.
About the Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven provinces in the United States that belong to the Order of Friars Minor. With ministries in 12 states along the East Coast, its more than 300 Catholic priests and brothers serve in colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and a wide variety of social ministries, as well as in overseas missions.
The Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and desire for respect of all people.
Questions and photo requests should be directed to Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.