Pictures of Fr. Kelly House

Pictures of the Memorial Mass in Morropon

Reflection on the Life of Fr. Kelly in Peru

Necrology (Villanova Province)

Homily at the Funeral Mass

John J. Kelly, O.S.A.


John Joseph Kelly was born on November 26, 1915, in DuBois, Pennsylvania, the son of Dennis Kelly and Mary Reilly. He was baptized on December 5, 1915 at St. Catherine’s Parish, DuBois, PA, attended elementary school at Jenks Hill Public School and St. Catherine’s Grade School. He continued his education at St. Catherine’s High School and then, beginning his association with the Augustinians in 1933, he spent at year at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. He entered the novitiate at New Hamburg, New York on Sept. 8, 1934, and professed first vows on Sept. 10, 1935. He then studied at Villanova College, graduating with a BA in June 1939. He professed Solemn Vows on March 10, 1939. He then completed his theological studies at Augustinian College, (1939-1943), and obtained a MA from Catholic University, Washington, DC, (1943). He was ordained to the priesthood in Trinity College Chapel, Washington, DC, on May 28, 1942.

From 1943 to 1949, Fr. Kelly served in Cuba at our parishes of San Agustin and Santa Rita, and at the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva. In 1948 he completed his Doctorado de Filosofia y Letras at the Universidad de Havana. In 1949 he served for one year at our newly founded Merrimack College, N. Andover, MA, and then in 1950 returned to the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva, Marianao, Cuba, where he was named first the Vice President and then, in 1951, the President of the University. Having been forced to leave Cuba by the Communist government of Fidel Castro in 1959, from then until 1962 he served at St. Augustine Parish, Lawrence, MA, and taught at St. Augustine High School, San Diego, CA and St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School, Bronx, NY.

In 1962, the Prior General, Luciano Rubio, OSA, asked Fr. Kelly to serve at Iglesia San Agustin, Santiago, Chile. He was there from 1962 to 1964 and served for several months each of those years helping the Midwest Province in the Peruvian missions. In 1964, Fr. Kelly returned to the United States and served in the California Province at St. Patrick’s Parish and St. Augustine’s High School in San Diego, and Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Hollywood. In 1976, Fr. Kelly requested assignment to the missions in Peru and he worked there until 1985, when, at the age of 70 and because of failing health, he returned to the United States and served at Biscayne College/Saint Thomas University and resided at the community residence, Casa San Lorenzo.

Living in the Miami area provided Fr. Kelly with the opportunity to minister to the large Hispanic, especially expatriate Cuban, population in that area, to foster the work of the university in its development of its Spanish-speaking campus, to serve the alumni of the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva, and to encourage many religious groups, especially the Spanish-speaking Augustinian Seculars of the area. During this period, on several occasions, Fr. Kelly attempted to return full-time to the missions in Peru, but each time his physical health could not keep up with his indefatigable missionary zeal. He represented the Province in Peru for the opening of the cause for canonization of our brother and his close friend, John McKniff, OSA in 2000. Besides writing a brief biography of Fr. McKniff, Fr. Kelly wrote a biography of Fr. Lorenzo Spirale, OSA, God’s Street Sweeper, and other publications about the Peruvian missions, Adventure in Faith: The Story of the Chulucanas Prelature, and Morropon Mission Letters. His most recent work was a brief history of the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva. Fr. Kelly’s longtime prayer and hope were for the return of the Order and the Province to Cuba.

In the past couple of years Fr. John had suffered from deteriorating health, but continued to be as active as he could in ministry and with his brothers in community at Casa San Lorenzo. Fr. John died around 3pm on Friday, August 25, 2006, a few months shy of his 91st birthday.

A Memorial Mass was celebrated at the Saint Thomas Monastery Chapel, Villanova University on August 31, 2006. On August 30, a Prayer Service, Viewing and Visitation was held at the Chapel of Saint Thomas University, Miami, and the Funeral Liturgy took place place on August 31, 2006 at Saint Augustine Catholic Church, Coral Gables, FL. Fr. Kelly is buried at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in the Miami area, where Fr. John McKniff, OSA is buried. It was Fr. Kelly’s wish to be buried near Fr. McKniff.