Dillon-Kelly, Robert, 1878-1955, Jesuit priest

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Dillon-Kelly, Robert, 1878-1955, Jesuit priest

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  • DK
  • Dillon Kelly, Robert

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Dates of existence

03 February 1878-02 February 1955

History

Born: 03 February 1878, Mullingar, County Westmeath
Entered: 14 August 1895, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 28 July 1912
Final vows: 02 February 1913
Died: 02 February 1955, Coláiste Iognáid, Galway

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1900 at St Aloysius, Jersey Channel Islands (FRA) studying
by 1912 at St Andrew on Hudson, Hyde Park NY, USA (NEB) making Tertianship

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 30th Year No 2 1955

Obituary :
Father Robert Dillon Kelly
When Fr. Dillon Kelly died early in the morning of February 2nd, a long and faithful life came quietly to a close. He had just completed his seventy seventh year. The eldest of a family of four brothers, he was born on February 3rd, 1878 in Mullingar, where his father, Dr. Joseph Dillon Kelly, had an extensive practice. He was at school in Belvedere when still quite young, and later went to Clongowes. On August 14th, 1895 he entered the noviceship and had as companions Fr. Finucane and Fr. Barragry, who this year will celebrate their Diamond Jubilee.
When in Belvedere he was taught for some time by Fr. Richard Campbell, and on one occasion missed the memory lesson. Fr. Campbell : “Robert what happens to the little bird that can sing and won't sing?". Robert : “I don't know, Sir”. Fr. Campbell : “It must be made sing!” However, the lesson may have been impressed on him, and most of us can guess, there is little doubt that Robert learned it then once and for all. During all his life as a Jesuit, anything that he was given to do he did faithfully and well. One who was his friend from the noviceship days writes : “We were in the Noviceship together. He found it hard, more than most novices, but bravely went through, It was the same in the Juniorate. He found the studies hard, but kept on doggedly”. So it was through life. Whatever the work, he gave himself to it wholeheartedly and demanded a high standard of achievement both from himself and from others. Affectionate by nature, loyal and sincere, he made many friends and those who needed a helping hand knew the value of his friendship, for he spared no trouble to assist them in their difficulties. In Limerick, where he spent twenty-nine years of his life as a priest, to the many generations who passed through his hands in the School, the Choir, and the Dramatic Societies, he was always and everywhere “D.K.” It was a simple and spontaneous expression of their affection for him. When he would rise to speak at the Ignatian Dinner, his welcome was tumultuous.
Through the long years he spent in the Crescent he filled many duties. He was games-master when he came first in 1914; then and for many years afterwards teacher in the School; later a wise and selfless confessor in the Church. In all he was the same, keen, alert, devoted to his job. But I think he will be best remembered there for his work with the Choir and the Dramatic Societies. From 1914 till he left for Galway in 1943 he was in charge of the Choir, and none will dispute the excellence of his achievement. Perfection was the only standard he accepted, and he did not rest till he obtained it. Early in 1916 lie produced his first play, The Pope in Killybuck, with the boys of the School ; and those who took part in it learned then and, I should say, have never forgotten what good acting and good production mean. A born actor himself, he knew what he wanted from each one, and no detail of gesture or movement or tone of voice was too small to be insisted on. A friend of his writes : “I have seen plays produced by many, but none with the perfection of his”. Year after year, from then on, he produced many plays, both with the boys and with the Dramatic Societies attached to the Crescent. David Garrick and Little Lord Fauntleroy stand out in memory, but perhaps his greatest triumph was The Greek Slave. A new organ was badly needed in the Church but there was no money to pay for it. Fr. Dillon Kelly got permission to do what he could to raise funds. He produced The Greek Slave. It was played to packed houses for a fortnight in the Theatre Royal, and when it was finished he had the money for the new organ, In his last years he would still talk lovingly about that organ. He knew every pipe and stop and piece of timber that went into it.
In 1943 Fr. Dillon Kelly left Limerick for Galway. He was sixty-five, but his health was already beginning to fail. The story of his years in Galway is one of slow but steady decline, with many long spells of serious illness. To one who had always been busy and active the tedium of those years must have been trying indeed. Yet he did not complain. Quietly he adapted himself to his growing weakness. As the years went on he came to live more and more in the past, and loved to dwell on memories of early holidays in Galway as a boy, of Villas with the giants of the past, and of the many happy fishing days in Waterville. With the approach of Summer, memory often became too strong for him, and he would be stirred into making plans for yet one more excursion with rod and line in the old familiar haunts. The spirit was eager, but the tired body was unable to respond. He could but cast his line over the quiet waters of his dreams.
And so slowly, very slowly, came the end. St. James says “patience has a perfect work”, and I think it was in the patient, uncomplaining acceptance of his weakness that the true quality of Fr. Dillon Kelly was revealed. Quick tempered and often superficially impatient of minor annoyances, there was in him a dignity and a nobility of character that shone bright in his declining years. His touching, almost childlike, gratitude for some little act or word of kindness showed a delicacy and depth of feeling unsuspected by many who did not know him well. Of someone it has been said that nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it. I venture to say that nothing in the long life of Fr. Dillon Kelly became him more nobly than his patience in the years when he was failing He had been hoping that Our Lady would come for him on her Feast Day, and she did not disappoint him. May he rest with her in peace.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Robert Dillon-Kelly SJ 1878-1955
It is the lot of some Jesuits, rare indeed, to be associated with one house or activity for most if their lives. Fr Dillon-Kelly was one of these. He spent 29 years in the Crescent and, to this day, his name is remembered and his memory affectionately recalled as “DK”.

Born in Mullingar in 1878, he was educated at Belvedere and Clongowes. 1914-193 in the Crescent he was in turn, Prefect of games, teacher and operarius. But his main work was with the choir and Dramatic Society. As a producer, it is no exaggeration to say that he would rank with the leading producers in the world. His greatest triumph was “The Greek Slave” which ran to packed houses, and earned enough money to pay for the new organ in the Church. His declining years were painful in their inactivity and illness were spent in Galway, 1943-1955.

He was a great character. Quick-tempered and superficially impatient of petty annoyances, there was in him a dignity and quality of character which shone bright in his latter years. His greatness of heart which went into all his activities, and not least into his personal religious life. He loved Our Lady and she took him as she wished, on her own Feast Day, February 2nd 1955.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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Dillon-Kelly, Robert, 1878-1955, Jesuit priest

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