- 8 December 1939 (Creation)
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Born: 14 November 1892, Talbotstown, Kiltegan, County Wicklow
Entered: 05 October 1911, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1924
Final Vows: 2 February 1929
Died: 19 January 1964, St Francis Xavier, Gardiner St, Dublin
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
Studied for BA at UCD
by 1918 at Stonyhurst, England (ANG) studying
by 1928 at St Beuno’s, St Asaph, Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 39th Year No 2 1964
Fr Michael Kelly SJ
Father Michael Kelly came as a small boy to Clongowes and left it in 1911 an undisputed leader and the most popular boy in the school. A good worker of average ability he had athletic gifts which transcended limitations of physique and made him an excellent Rugby centre three quarter and a fine attacking batsman. A new boy in his last year worshipped him from afar and has for fifty years esteemned a characteristic memory of him. He is returning to the pavilion with “134 not out” to his credit. Beside him marches Bill Dundon, head erect and rightly proud of his 60. Father Michael's bat trails, he is only up to his companion's shoulder and his head is a little bent and his eyes on the ground. This score still stands as the record for a Clongowes boy in an out-match, Three years later there was another glimpse: this time of a Jesuit Schol astic in procession to the High Mass which celebrated the centenary of Clongowes.
There followed a degree in history and after three years philosophy, he returned to Clongowes, surprisingly enough, not as a prefect but as a teacher of history when history was being made in Ireland. Again it was to Clongowes he came after his priestly studies. This time as Higher Line Prefect and then as priest-prefect of the Third Line-something of an innovation and certainly a successful one. Already the ill health which was to cause him so much suffering-patiently even heroically borne through all the years to come—was a serious menace. After a second period as Higher Line Prefect the doctors intervened and he took up that dull and obscure office of Prefect of the Big Study. He must have felt the change but he never showed it. There is a special bond between a Prefect of Studies and a Study Prefect and the man who had the blessing of Father Kelly's advice and help and sympathy for the next three years is not likely to forget the generosity and self-effacement Father Kelly showed. In 1936 he was made Minister - a position he occupied for the then unprecedented period of ten years. They included the war years, with exceptional problems of fuel and transport and food, with which Father Minister coped so effectively that there were no serious hardships. Special crises, indeed, there were a foot and mouth epidemnic that called for a difficult isolation policy; the worst series of epidemics the school had in recent years. With such affairs Father Kelly dealt with an energy and resource that often deceived people as to their magnitude.
Peace had come and after an unequalled and unbroken record of service to a school that he loved with fervour but without fanaticism, he was called on to start an entirely new life. For almost twenty years he gave to Gardiner Street Church and its people an equally unstinting service-a service which included the direction of one of the great Sodalities, charge of the Boys' Club as well as countless hours of unrecorded but invaluable advice in the confessional and the parlour.
A Jesuit who knew him well described as his outstanding quality loyalty in the very best sense of the word. As a boy Father Michael had Father T. V. Nolan as his Rector, Father John Sullivan as Spiritual Father, and Father George Roche as Higher Line Prefect. For them all and especially for the last named he had a deep and lasting respect and gratitude. For Father Kelly was one of the many boys who owed their vocation under God, in part at least, to the bed time visits which the Higher Line Prefect regularly made to the senior boys. At Father Roche's jubilee celebrations he told of the deep and lasting impression made on him by a few words on the true order of priorities spoken on a night many years before to a boy flushed with joy in a big athletic success in which his share had been notable. His was the sort of loyalty which strove to repay in kind what he himself had received. His school friends Jimmy Gaynor, Tom Finlay and Tom Duggan had meant and continued to mean, alive or dead, very much to him. To generations of boys at school and of men and women in the parish, he gave his help with a warm con fidence that not even his extreme modesty could curtail and which his utter lack of ambition made the more acceptable. He might well have become vain in the days of his prowess on the playing field, but he was to the end almost distressingly nodest. Immensely popular, he certainly never courted popularity and scarcely seemed to know the esteem in which he was held. Yet few Jesuits have won so many grateful and endur ing friends and he made no enemies. This was partly the result of his unfailing courtesy and gentleness. “A fine gentleman” as one of his sub alterns described him in his last days. Perhaps still more it was a refusal on the part of a really sensible man to allow opposition or misunder standing to embitter him. The success of others meant far more to him than any achievement of his own. But with all his tolerance and sympathy he was a man of unbending principle and, when it was necessary, of firm action, An unequalled judge of character, he did not conceive of rule or influence by fear or bluff or deceit, and in practice almost invariably got the best out of those for whom he worked.
That such a man should have borne the very severe pain of a long final illness heroically is not surprising; that to the end he could reward the affection and gratitude of those he had befriended with unfailing humility and tenderness, must be their consolation, Father Kelly was indeed a Christ-like man and in the extreme of suffering like Christ his thought was for others. To his much loved family we offer our sincere condolences.
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Letter from Fr Michael Kelly SJ, Clongowes Wood College, Naas, County Kildare to Irish Fr Provincial Laurence J Kieran SJ concerning the time Fr Joseph Hurley SJ rises in the morning.
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