Challenge Complete: The Joseph A. Kelly, S.J. Office of Campus Ministry Dedicated on December 7

More than 60 people, including family, friends and alumni, attended a Mass of Remembrance for Rev. Joe Kelly, S.J., HA ’05 on December 7 in Saint Peter Chapel at Saint Peter Hall. Fr. Kelly, a member of the Jesuit order since 1949, passed away on December 5, 2008 at Christ Hospital in Jersey City. He provided 25 years of service to the Saint Peter’s community as a campus minister and subsequently as a member of the advancement division.

The Mass was celebrated by Rev. Rocco Danzi, S.J., director of campus ministry, with the assistance of Carmel Galasso ’79, who provided reading and musical selections. A special message from Rev. Michael Kelly, S.J., Fr. Kelly’s brother and a Jesuit priest in Zambia, South Africa, was also read during the Mass.

Following Mass, attendees gathered on the first floor of the Mac Mahon Student Center as Fr. Danzi blessed and dedicated The Joseph A. Kelly, S.J. Office of Campus Ministry. The naming of the office on Fr. Kelly’s behalf was sparked by “The Kelly Challenge,” an effort to memorialize him in the student center. Trustee Joseph Gromek ’68 stepped forward with a gift of $200,000, initiating the Challenge of raising a total of $500,000 by December 2013. Not only was the goal met, but it was far surpassed, with nearly $1 million raised in gifts, pledges and bequest intentions.

“What a fitting tribute to an amazing man, one who will always remain in the hearts of so many of us,” said University President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. “Now his legacy and love can be experienced by our entire community, even those who never had the good fortune of knowing him personally.”

Beginning in 1968, Fr. Kelly served as a campus minister at the University for more than 20 years, counseling students and providing retreats, seminars, Masses  and workshops to enhance their personal growth. One of his most memorable initiatives at Saint Peter’s was the Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP) walk, which continues to provide funds for international food pantries.

After leaving Saint Peter’s in 1988, Fr. Kelly became the parochial vicar at St. Malachy’s Church, also known as The Actors’ Chapel, in Manhattan. He was a friend to the Broadway community, counseling new actors, as well as stagehands, and providing Masses to them at times that were convenient. He also had a great love for theater. In fact, he played the role of a Catholic priest in the 1996 film City Hall in a scene with Al Pacino.

While he worked at St. Malachy’s, Fr. Kelly continued to offer intellectual and spiritual support to the Saint Peter’s community. He often volunteered as a speaker and master of ceremonies for University events. He was named an honorary alumnus of Saint Peter’s at its Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner in 2005.

Fr. Kelly, the youngest of seven children, was born in Tullamore County, Offaly, Ireland, and joined the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus in 1949. He earned his undergraduate degree in English language and literature in 1954 at University College in Dublin. He arrived in the United States in 1965 to do post-graduate studies at Cornell and at Loyola University in Chicago.

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