BETHEL PARK, PA – August 15, 2015
Fr. Joe Kelly, C.S.Sp. celebrates 70 years of Profession to the priesthood on August 15, 2015. A native of Sayville, NY, he made his first profession on August 15, 1945 at Ridgefield, CT, and was ordained on September 15, 1950 by Bishop Byrne, C.S.Sp. at St. Mary Seminary in Norwalk, CT. Fr. Kelly now resides at The Spiritan Center in Bethel Park, PA, where he has lived in retirement since 2003.
His first appointment was to Kilimanjaro in 1951 where he began a missionary vocation that spanned 52 years in Africa. Assignments included ministry in the missions of Uru, Kilomeni, Sambarai, Usa River and Sinon in Arusha; teaching at Singa Chini Teachers College, pastor at Mbosho Mission, Chaplain at Assumpta Secondary School; and Director of Development at Catholic University of Eastern Africa. While there he designed, initiated and taught pastoral communications at Spiritan Missionary Seminary and was also active in the Diocese of Moshi, Nairobi, where he served as Director and started a diocesan paper, founded the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) Documentation Service, which was sent to 42 countries around the world and served 90 AMECEA dioceses in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The Spiritans’ threefold approach to ministry in Africa – spiritual, emotional, and corporal – guided Fr. Kelly’s work. He helped establish mission stations, schools, and small hospitals in many centers. Some grew into more advanced institutions, including seminaries for training priests, and even a University in Nairobi. “Unlike people in the business world who want to make themselves indispensable, the task of the missionary is to make himself unnecessary” was Fr. Kelly’s mantra.
Writing was something Fr. Kelly made part of his work, and he often wrote articles about African issues for the Catholic News Service and ran media workshops for bishops where he shared information about keeping in touch with and working as a community with neighboring dioceses which were often hundred miles of away.
As a result of a friendship with an underprivileged African-American child, Fr. Kelly’s vocation was born, and he has been passionate about Africa and its people ever since. He is proud that that “the Catholic Church has played an important part in the human rights education needed for self-government, and their help in developing the mind, heart, body and economy, in addition to the spiritual, which ties it all together.” He feels blessed to have been an eyewitness to countless change in the Church and in East Africa where he has seen the countries of East Africa gaining their independence and working toward their freedom. Father Kelly refers to his vocation as accepting the gift given him by God.