I debated starting this thread, since none of you even know who this person is. But I just…I needed to say something somewhere. I apologize in advance for the length.
Father Kelly was the Catholic campus minister at William & Mary when I started there. He was…different than any priest I’d ever met. He was FUN. Polycarp reminds me of him in so many ways, it’s unbelievable. He was warm, caring, understanding of how college kids felt, never rejected those who were different… He made a girl who didn’t know what she believed any more believe again. He convinced me to go on a retreat that changed my life and allowed me to meet one of my best friends ever. He gave the same sermons every year, but no one ever minded…the older kids were proud that they could pick out the sermon within about 2 minutes of it starting. I still remember some of them…
He was always laughing with all of us. I remember the first year we did Easter mass with the church there, it was sheer HELL. They thought we couldn’t do anything. We went down to talk to him on Holy Thursday, and I remember him laughing at my friend Dan and I - “Well, you didn’t even DRESS right! Of course you have problems!” (We were supposed to wear white shirts, black bottoms. Dan and I were in navy shirts and khakis.) And then he told all of us to go get ice cream and relax. When Cathy and I said we gave up chocolate for Lent, he said “Lent’s over! It’s Holy Week! I say so!”
Sadly, a priest that good couldn’t stay with us long, and after my sophmore year, Father Kelly went to serve in Richmond for the Bishop. We all knew he’d be bishop after Bishop Sullivan died, which was kinda cool - “Man, we know a BISHOP!” laughs Also sadly, him leaving threw our Catholic student group into disarray. No one could ever be like Father Kelly (well, except for the minister at JMU, but that’s beside the point.), and the group fractured again. I left the church after college, hurt and lost, but still remembering Father Kelly as one of the best people I had ever met.
I got an email over the weekend from a college friend. Father Kelly is dying of liver cancer. He is going off treatment and preparing for the end. His email to everyone was like him. Full of hope, and joy at life.
Farewell, Father Kelly. I wish I could have somehow told you the difference you made in my life. I can honestly say that I will never forget you.