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Msgr. Kelly joins canons of St. Peter’s Basilica, a ministry of prayer

Posted By January 11, 2013 | 1:00 am | Featured Article #1
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although his curriculum vitae includes parish assignments, seminary positions and years devoted to promoting religious education throughout the United States, Msgr. Francis D. Kelly said, "All my life I've been a closet monk." As he prepared to take his post as a canon of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, a position focused on the service of prayer, Msgr. Kelly said, "God knows what he's doing." The chief task of the two dozen canons, he said, is prayer and worship.

Cardinal Comastri greets US Msgr.Kelly during ceremony to become canon of St. Peter’s Basilica
Cardinal Angelo Comastri greets Msgr. Francis Kelly, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., before Kelly formally becomes a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica during a ceremony in the basilica at the Vatican Jan. 20. Msgr. Kelly, who has been superior o f Casa Santa Maria in Rome for the past eight years, will be the first U.S.-born canon in almost 50 years. The canons devote their ministry to prayer in the basilica. Cardinal Comastri is the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

CNS PHOTO By Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although his curriculum vitae includes parish assignments, seminary positions and years devoted to promoting religious education throughout the United States, Msgr. Francis D. Kelly said, “All my life I’ve been a closet monk.”

As he prepared to take his post as a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, a position focused on the service of prayer, Msgr. Kelly said, “God knows what he’s doing.”

The chief task of the two dozen canons, he said, is prayer and worship.

For the past eight years, the 75-year-old monsignor from the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., has served as superior of the Casa Santa Maria, the residence for U.S. priests studying at the pontifical universities in Rome.

CNSPHOTO By Paul HaringMsgr. Kelly was named a canon of the basilica by Pope Benedict XVI and was formally installed Jan. 20 in a brief ceremony attended by hundreds of friends, a half dozen ambassadors and five U.S. cardinals living in Rome: Cardinals James M. Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; and Cardinals William J. Levada, J. Francis Stafford and Bernard F. Law, retired from Vatican posts.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, led the ceremony at which Msgr. Kelly formally recited and signed a profession of faith and an oath of obedience to Pope Benedict and his successors.

Remarking on the fact that Msgr. Kelly also is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination in 2013, Cardinal Comastri said the ceremony was a “celebration of fidelity” with the monsignor having “maintained for your entire life the promise you made as a young man.”

Msgr. Kelly and other members of the Chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica entered the Chapel of the Canons wearing their distinctive violet capes. As part of the ceremony, Msgr. Kelly received from Cardinal Comastri a black biretta topped with a violet tuft.

The cardinal said Msgr. Kelly brings to 10 the number of countries represented by the canons, a reflection of the universality of the church.

In a Jan. 17 interview with Catholic News Service, Msgr. Kelly said he did not know how he came to be appointed the first U.S.-born canon in almost 50 years; “it’s not something I asked for or expected.”

Italian-born Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, 82, a retired Vatican diplomat and priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., currently is the senior canon; he and Msgr. Kelly both hold positions at the international offices of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The last U.S.-born priest to serve as a canon was Archbishop Martin O’Connor, a native of Scranton, Pa., who had served as rector of the Pontifical North American College before being named a nuncio, and as president of the then-Pontifical Commission for Social Communications. He became a canon upon retirement in 1971 and served until his death in 1986.

The first U.S. priest to become a canon was Pittsburgh Msgr. William Hemmick, who served at the basilica from 1946 to 1971.

In a 2007 meeting with the Chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica, which includes the canons, Pope Benedict XVI said that for more than 1,400 years, there has been an “uninterrupted presence of praying clergy” around the tomb of St. Peter. In the early centuries different orders of monks had the responsibility, but in 1053 St. Leo IX created the College of Canons and appointed a group of priests who were not members of monastic orders.

Pope Benedict told the canons their service is to offer “the ministry of prayer. While prayer is fundamental for all Christians, for you, dear brothers, it can be called a professional duty.”

The pope said that the best way to ensure that the millions of people who visit St. Peter’s every year know it is a church, and not a museum, is to find people praying inside.

Like Msgr. Kelly, the canons all have a long history of ministry and service to the church; several of them, like Archbishop De Andrea, are retired Vatican ambassadors. On Sundays and major feast days, they concelebrate and take turns preaching at the 10:30 a.m. solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and lead the recitation of evening prayer in the basilica.

Msgr. Kelly said, “For those who know me and my life story and my inclinations, this was a perfect fit. It’s not at all a radical change of style; it’s really doing something that I’ve always been attracted to and done in different ways.”

 

By Margaret M. Russell
and William T. Clew

At age 75, Msgr. Francis D. Kelly said he knew that his work at the North American College in Rome was nearing an end. What he did not anticipate, however, was that Pope Benedict XVI was going to help him finish that chapter in his life and start a new one. Soon he will trade one college for another and go from a ministry of administration to a ministry of prayer.
Msgr. Kelly, a Worcester diocesan priest who has been the superior of the Casa Santa Maria at the North American College since 2005, was inducted Jan. 20 into the College of Canons of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“I am humbled and honored,” Msgr. Kelly said during a telephone call from Rome.
Since being a canon is not a familiar clerical state outside of Europe, even his American priest-students have been asking him: What is a canon?
According to Msgr. Kelly, the primary function of a canon is to conduct liturgical services at St. Peter’s. The canons are the principle celebrants at the solemn Mass in St. Peter’s on Sundays and feast days, presiding and preaching in turn. They also conduct evening vespers on those occasions.
He will be the only American canon and the first in almost 50 years. The last was Archbishop Martin O’Connor, who was named after serving 18 years as rector of the North American College.
The College of Canons, created in 1053 by Pope St. Leo IX, is composed of about 25 priests, many of whom served formerly in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, ecclesiastical universities or offices of the Vatican Curia.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Basilica, heads the College of Canons. The canons occasionally meet with Cardinal Comastri regarding things that affect the liturgy at the basilica, Msgr. Kelly said.
“It’s a contemplative life and ministry. I am grateful for the privilege,” Msgr. Kelly said.
He will step down from his position as superior of Casa Santa Maria, the residence and house of prayer for American priests engaged in graduate studies. Currently about 60 priests from the United States are living there while studying in Rome, Msgr. Kelly said.
The Worcester Diocese has two seminarians at another campus of North American College, Donato Infante and Deacon Mark Rainville.
The Casa also houses the visitors’ office sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops to assist American tourists seeking access to tickets for papal audiences and liturgies while in Rome.
His induction into the College of Canons comes during the golden jubilee year of his priesthood. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 18, 1963, in Rome.
He was born Aug. 6, 1937, in Worcester, the son of Peter and Mary (Gibbons) Kelly. He graduated from St. Paul’s Elementary School and St. John’s High School.
He attended the College of the Holy Cross before beginning studies for the priesthood at Cardinal O’Connell Seminary in Jamaica Plain, at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and at the North American College in Rome. After his ordination as a priest he received his licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
When he returned to the Worcester Diocese he served from 1964 to 1967 as associate pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish. He did graduate studies at Columbia University and, in 1970, received a graduate degree in religious studies.
On Sept. 15, 1969, he was named diocesan director of religious education. While he held that position, he was, at various times, chairman of the New England Directors of Religious Education, vice president of the National Catholic Educational Association’s Religious Education Directors’ Conference and a visiting professor of Religious Education at Assumption College. He also served as a master of ceremonies for Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan.
In 1979 Msgr. Kelly was named executive director of the Department of Religious Education at the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington, D.C., serving for 12 years in assisting dioceses throughout the United States in improving their their education programs.
He is the author of “The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium,” published by Our Sunday Visitor Press and revised and expanded in 2002.
He was named by the Holy See to the International Commission for Catechesis of the Congregation of the Clergy and also was appointed as a member of the Redaction Committee for the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” That committee was chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who now is Pope Benedict XVI.
In November 1991, he was named a Prelate of Honor with the title of monsignor and invested in March 1992 by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. That year he also taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In September 1992 he was appointed to the faculty of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and, in 1994, was named president/rector of that seminary. He served in that capacity for 10 years.
He was invested in January 2002 as a chaplain in the Order of Malta in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He also is a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. For 10 years he served each weekend as an assistant at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford.
In 2005, while supervisor of the Casa Santa Maria, he was named to the governance of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. He served as a member of the Grand Magisterium – the Order’s governing board – and as Ceremoniere of the Order, serving its spiritual and liturgical needs. He will continue his service to the Order.
In 2011 he was named by the Holy See to the Apostolic Visitation Team for Irish seminaries that visited the Irish College in Rome and Maynooth Seminary in Ireland.
Msgr. Kelly wrote two books while in Rome. They are “Discovering Christ,” a basic Christology published in 2007 by Our Sunday Visitor, and “Through the Church Year,” a meditative companion to the liturgical year, published in 2009 by Ave Maria Press. services at St. Peter’s. The canons are the principle celebrants at the solemn Mass in St. Peter’s on Sundays and feast days, presiding and preaching in turn. They also conduct evening vespers on those occasions.
He will be the only American canon now and the first in almost 50 years. The last was Archbishop Martin O’Connor, who was named after serving 18 years as rector of the North American College.
The College of Canons, created in 1053 by Pope St. Leo IX, is composed of about 25 priests, many of whom served formerly in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, ecclesiastical universities or offices of the Vatican Curia.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Basilica, heads the College of Canons. The canons occasionally meet with Cardinal Comastri regarding things that affect the liturgy at the basilica, Msgr. Kelly said.
“It’s a contemplative life and ministry. I am grateful for the privilege,” Msgr. Kelly said.
He will step down from his position as superior of Casa Santa Maria, the residence and house of prayer for American priests engaged in graduate studies. Currently about 60 priests from the United States are living there while studying in Rome, Msgr. Kelly said.
The Worcester Diocese has two seminarians at another campus of the North American College, Donato Infante and Deacon Mark Rainville.
The Casa also houses the visi tors’ office sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops to assist American tourists seeking access to tickets for papal audiences and liturgies while in Rome.
Msgr. Kelly’s induction into the College of Canons comes during the golden jubilee year of his priesthood. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 18, 1963, in Rome.
He was born Aug. 6, 1937, in Worcester, the son of Peter and Mary (Gibbons) Kelly. He graduated from St. Paul’s Elementary School and St. John’s High School.
He attended the College of the Holy Cross before beginning studies for the priesthood at Cardinal O’Connell Seminary in Jamaica Plain, at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and at the North American College in Rome. After his ordination as a priest he received his licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
When he returned to the Worcester Diocese he served from 1964 to 1967 as associate pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish. He did graduate studies at Columbia University and, in 1970, received a graduate degree in religious studies.
On Sept. 15, 1969, he was named diocesan director of religious education. While he held that position, he was, at various times, chairman of the New England Directors of Religious Education, vice president of the National Catholic Educational Association’s Religious Education Directors’ Conference and a visiting professor of Religious Education at Assumption College. He also served as a master of ceremonies for Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan.
In 1979 Msgr. Kelly was named executive director of the Department of Religious Education at the National Catholic Educational Association in Washington, D.C., serving for 12 years in assisting dioceses throughout the United States in improving their education programs.
He is the author of “The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium,” published by Our Sunday Visitor Press and revised and expanded in 2002.
He was named by the Holy See to the International Commission for Catechesis of the Congregation of the Clergy and also was appointed as a member of the Redaction Committee for the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” That committee was chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who now is Pope Benedict XVI.
In November 1991, he was named a Prelate of Honor with the title of monsignor and invested in March 1992 by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. That year he also taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In September 1992 he was appointed to the faculty of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and, in 1994, was named president/rector of that seminary. He served in that capacity for 10 years.
He was invested in January 2002 as a chaplain in the Order of Malta in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He also is a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. For 10 years he served each weekend as an assistant at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford.
In 2005, while supervisor of the Casa Santa Maria, he was named to the governance of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. He served as a member of the Grand Magisterium – the Order’s governing board – and as Ceremoniere of the Order, serving its spiritual and liturgical needs. He will continue his service to the Order.
In 2011 he was named by the Holy See to the Apostolic Visitation Team for Irish seminaries that visited the Irish College in Rome and Maynooth Seminary in Ireland.
Msgr. Kelly wrote two books while in Rome. They are “Discovering Christ,” published in 2007 by Our Sunday Visitor, and “Through the Church Year,” a meditative companion to the liturgical year, published in 2009 by Ave Maria Press.

 

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although his curriculum vitae includes parish assignments, seminary positions and years devoted to promoting religious education throughout the United States, Msgr. Francis D. Kelly said, “All my life I’ve been a closet monk.”

As he prepared to take his post as a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, a position focused on the service of prayer, Msgr. Kelly said, “God knows what he’s doing.”

The chief task of the two dozen canons, he said, is prayer and worship.

For the past eight years, the 75-year-old monsignor from the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., has served as superior of the Casa Santa Maria, the residence for U.S. priests studying at the pontifical universities in Rome. He was named a canon of the basilica by Pope Benedict XVI and was to be formally installed Jan. 20.

In a Jan. 17 interview with Catholic News Service, Msgr. Kelly said he did not know how he came to be appointed the first U.S.-born canon in almost 50 years; “it’s not something I asked for or expected.”

Italian-born Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, 82, a retired Vatican diplomat and priest of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., currently is the senior canon; he and Msgr. Kelly both hold positions at the international offices of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The last U.S.-born priest to serve as a canon was Archbishop Martin O’Connor, a native of Scranton, Pa., who had served as rector of the Pontifical North American College before being named a nuncio, and as president of the then-Pontifical Commission for Social Communications. He retired in 1971 and died in 1986.

In a 2007 meeting with the Chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica, which includes the canons, Pope Benedict XVI said that for more than 1,400 years, there has been an “uninterrupted presence of praying clergy” around the tomb of St. Peter. In the early centuries different orders of monks had the responsibility, but in 1053 St. Leo IX created the College of Canons and appointed a group of priests who were not members of monastic orders.

Pope Benedict told the canons their service is to offer “the ministry of prayer. While prayer is fundamental for all Christians, for you, dear brothers, it can be called a professional duty.”

The pope said that the best way to ensure that the millions of people who visit St. Peter’s every year know it is a church, and not a museum, is to find people praying inside.

Like Msgr. Kelly, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination this year, the canons all have a long history of ministry and service to the church; several of them, like Archbishop De Andrea, are retired Vatican ambassadors. On Sundays and major feast days, they concelebrate and take turns preaching at the 10:30 a.m. solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and lead the recitation of evening prayer in the basilica.

Msgr. Kelly said, “For those who know me and my life story and my inclinations, this was a perfect fit. It’s not at all a radical change of style; it’s really doing something that I’ve always been attracted to and done in different ways.”