Introduction – Funeral of Canon James Kelly
Joining with the welcome already extended to you by the celebrant, Canon Stephen Farragher, and with the Parish Priest, Canon John Walsh, I extend a céad mile fáilte to you all, to Canon James’s brother, Fr. Pat, his nieces, nephews and cousins, to adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, to the people of Tooreen and the people and religious where he ministered. Welcome to my brother priests.
I find myself torn between wanting to be at the Mass in Tooreen and yet recognising my responsibility to abide by the restriction of “cocooning”. I know many of you share that experience. In my twenty-five years as Archbishop I only missed one priests funeral when I was in Lourdes.
Though physically absent I join with you all in this Funeral Mass as we thank God for Fr. James Kelly and entrust him to the Lord.
HOMILY FOR THE FUNERAL MASS OF CANON JAMES KELLY
Living as we do at a time when one age is dying and a new age is not yet born, we will witness around us radical changes in society as we endeavour to cope with Covid-19 and recognise our frailty and vulnerability. We are bewildered and confused.
Priesthood will inevitably be affected as the priest endeavours to respond to these changes and focus the light of the gospel on them. It is a difficult and demanding time for all. Canon James Kelly has live 65 years of his life as a priest.
Devotion to Our Lady has been one of the central supports of his priesthood. You remember at the Annunciation, Our Lady was called upon to do something new, to answer God’s invitation to be the mother of his son. Mary too was troubled and puzzled by that call. That sense of puzzlement was not confined to the Annunciation scene. Confusion and uncertainty must have characterised many moments in her life. Mary did not receive any specific or detailed explanation of God’s call. She was not a woman to whom the future was foreseeable; she possessed no ordinance survey map for her life of faith.
When the young Fr. James Kelly walked down the aisle of the Chapel in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth on the morning of 19th June 1955 he did not possess any specific God given scenario for his ministry; he did not know in detail what God’s call would involve, but like Mary, he recognised that it was God who was calling and he was prepared to say a generous yes to that call.
Central to Canon James’ priestly ministry was the Adoration of the Eucharist. He, along with the late Mike Kumar, encouraged parishes throughout the Diocese to become involved in Eucharistic Adoration. James recognised the great graces which are available to individuals and parishes coming from Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharistic adoration team here in the Archdiocese and all of us owe him a huge debt of gratitude. In a busy world, James always recognised the importance of being still before Jesus in adoration. Among his favourite psalms was psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” At this time we realise the importance of the time spent sharing with the Lord our concerns, our worries and our fear as we cope with this pandemic.
Fr. James commenced his ministry in Brooklodge Monastery near Tuam. From there he moved to Errew Monastery outside Castlebar and in 1958 he was appointed to Presentation College, Headford. For eighteen years he worked tirelessly with the Presentation Sisters and staff to ensure that Presentation College would be the great educational establishment it is today. I had every reason to become very conscious of the great work that he did because in 1976 I was appointed to replace him.
In 1976 Fr. James was appointed to Dunmore for ten years. After that it was on to Bunnacurry in Achill and after one year he became Parish Priest of Achill. In 1992 he became Parish Priest of Caherlistrane. It was an area with which he would have been very familiar from his days in Headford. He would have taught many of the parents.
Canon James enjoyed a very good relationship with his fellow priests. The priests who worked with him in Achill and who would have been ordained many years after him, would meet with him each year to celebrate the priesthood which they shared in common. Priests enjoyed teasing Canon James about his spirituality and his priestly approach. Yet they recognised and admired the absolute sincerity of the man. He is someone who was rooted very deeply in the faith. He saw the implications of faith for the way in which we live our lives. He has been with his people in good times and in bad. As a priest he had been bringing your concerns before the Lord in his prayers each day, at the altar at Mass, in the Divine Office, in his praying of the Rosary and his other prayers.
A priest has responsibility for presenting and proclaiming the Word of God and endeavouring to ensure that the word addresses the difficulties, frustrations, tensions and tragedies which people experience in their every day lives. Each priest will do that utilising the gifts, talents and the particular personality and the interests which he has. Canon James had been doing that conscientiously and with great devotion and sincerity over the years.
Canon James was a man of very simple but very attractive life-style which enabled people to identify totally with him. A great supporter of Opus Dei, he received wonderful support and friendship from them as he never lost sight of his primary priestly responsibility to bring people close to the Lord in prayer.
The word retirement was not in Canon James’ vocabulary. After he resigned as Parish Priest in Caherlistrane he volunteered to continue his priestly ministry and took up an appointment in Tooreen. Again, the result of his priestly ministry can be seen in the fact that in this church in Tooreen adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 24/7. I had the privilege of anointing him recently and after being with Canon James I visited Tooreen Church and there in front of the Blessed Sacrament was an adorer who, I am sure, was thanking God and Canon James for making it possible.
As we lay Canon James to rest we thank God for the priesthood which he has given to his Church and for the way in which Canon James has shared so faithfully in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Finally, I convey my sympathy and the promise of my prayers to Canon James’ family, to his brother, Fr. Pat, nieces and nephews and cousins. I thank Fr. John Walsh for being so kind to him and so supportive of him.
Canon Stephen Farragher was always available to bring Fr. James to various functions, and spent hours with him just before he died.
I want to thank the people of the parishes in which Canon James served for the way in which they have prayed with and for him, supported and encouraged him.
A special word of thanks to Anne Feeney and the staff of Ave Maria Nursing Home for the care they lavished on him.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.