Kelly, James, 1921-2000, Jesuit priest

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Kelly, James, 1921-2000, Jesuit priest

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  • 紀烈義神父
  • Jimmy Kelly

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07 September 1921-07 April 2000


Born: 07 September 1921, Geashill, County Offaly
Entered: 07 September 1940, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 29 July 1954, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 03 February 1958, Wah Yan College, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Died: 07 April 2000, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin

Part of the Loyola, Eglinton Road, Dublin community at the time of death.

Transcribed HIB to HK : 03/12/1966; HK to CHN : 1992; CHN to HIB : 1993

by 1949 at Hong Kong - Regency
by 1963 at Rome, Italy (ROM) studying

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father James Kelly, S.J.

Father James Kelly, SJ, died in Dublin on 7 April 2000 after a long illness.

Born in Ireland in 1921, Father Kelly came to Hong Kong in 1948. After studying the Cantonese language first in Guangzhou and then in Hong Kong, he spent one year teaching in Wah Yan College, Robinson Road before returning to Ireland to complete his ecclesiastical studies.

Ordained a priest in 1954, Father Kelly returned to Hong Kong in 1956 and was first assigned to teach in Wah Yan College, Kowloon. In 1958 he began to teach theology in the Regional Seminary, Aberdeen.

From 1962 to 1964 he did further studies in Rome and then taught theology for a short time in the Philippines before being recalled to heavy administrative responsibilities in Hong Kong. However, he gave theology courses when invited in Holy Spirit Seminary, Aberdeen until 1982. Owing to ill health he returned to Ireland in 1995 where he remained until his death.

Father Kelly had a keen interest in Scripture the subject he taught most frequently and his courses were much appreciated by his students. He also had a practical turn of mind and undertook many administrative tasks in a competent way. He had a lively inquiring mind and was a man of many interests. He was a devoted priest and a kind and understanding guide to all who looked to him for spiritual direction.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 30 April 2000

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 3 1948

Frs. Casey G., Grogan and Sullivan leave England for Hong Kong on 2nd July on the ‘Canton’. On the following day Fr. Kevin O'Dwyer hopes to sail with Fr. Albert Cooney from San Francisco on the ‘General Gordon’ for the same destination.
The following will be going to Hong Kong in August : Frs. Joseph Mallin and Merritt, Messrs. James Kelly, McGaley, Michael McLoughlin and Geoffrey Murphy.

◆ Interfuse

Interfuse No 105 : Special Edition 2000


Fr James J (Jimmy) Kelly (1921-2000) - Honk Kong Province

1921, Sept 7: Born in Geashill, Offaly
Early education: St Columba's, Tullamore

1940, Sept 7: Entered the Society at Emo
1942, Sept 8: First vows at Emo
1942 - 1945: B.A. studies at UCD
1945 - 1948: Tullabeg, studying philosophy
1948 - 1950: Hong Kong, studying Cantonese
1950 - 1951: Wah Yan College, teaching
1951 - 1955: Milltown Park, studying theology
July 29th 1954: Ordained priest at Milltown Park
1955 - 1956; Tertianship at Rathfarnham
1956 - 1958: Wah Yan College, teaching
1958 - 1962: Regional Seminary, teaching Scripture
1962 - 1964: Gregorian, Rome, studying Dogmatic Theology
1964 - 1965: Philippines, teaching Scripture
1965 - 1995: During this long period he held various posts:
Regional Treasurer, Professor of Sacred Scripture, taught Church History in Seminary, Assistant Warden, Ricci Hall, Province Revisor.
1995 - 2000: Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin

While in Hong Kong, Fr. Kelly suffered from arthritis and the start of Parkinson's Disease. Jimmy lived his mission to Pray for the Church and the Society deeply and, up to a week before he died, he could be found praying at 5.30 a.m. In his last days he was relieved to be dispensed from praying the Prayer of the Church. He went quickly downhill and died as he had lived, quietly and without drawing attention to himself.

Joe Foley writes ...

Jimmy Kelly was born into a strongly nationalist family in Geashill, Offaly on 7th September, 1921. He was always proud of the fact that he came from a nationalist background and that he was of rural origin.

Most of Jimmy's life was spent in Hong Kong, but even before he went on the missions, he had an interesting time in Ireland. He was completely at home in the bogs of the midlands and while studying philosophy in Tullabeg he thoroughly enjoyed joining the late Fr Frank Shaw, SJ on shooting expeditions in the bogs, with which he was very familiar. Jimmy could be described as a handyman and was very much in demand as a stage-hand when we put on our amateur productions in Tullabeg. I suspect that one of his most enjoyable moments was when, in one play - it was Seán O Casey, I think - the script called for “gunfire, off stage”, and Jimmy proudly produced gunfire that was not only realistic, but was actually real!

He went to Guangzhou (Canton) China in 1948. The plan was that he would spend two years studying Cantonese. However, the change of government in China changed all that. Jimmy, together with the other seven scholastics who were studying Cantonese, went to Hong Kong in the summer of 1949 to continue his language studies. The following year he taught in the afternoon section of Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, then in Robinson Road. He returned to Ireland for theology in 1951, was ordained priest in Milltown Park and did his tertianship in Rathfarnham Castle, He was back in Hong Kong in 1956. He taught and was Prefect of Studies in Wah Yan College, Kowloon. He was then assigned to teach scripture in the Regional Seminary for South China in Aberdeen, Hong Kong.

Scripture became one of Jimmy's main interests, which stayed with him all his life. From 1962 - 1964 he did doctoral studies in Rome. Those were the early days of the Second Vatican Council and Jimmy struck up a friendship with Robert Kaiser, one of the chief English-speaking correspondents of the Council. He also renewed acquaintance with Fr Malachy Martin, SJ whom he already knew well, since Malachy was one year ahead of him in the Society. Jimmy thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in all the “goings-on” at the Council and had a grandstand view of what was happening. At the same time negotiations were under way for the transference of the Diocese of Hong Kong from the Italians (the PIME) to the Chinese Diocesan Clergy. We in Hong Kong knew nothing of this at the time, but Jimmy must have kept a close and very discreet eye on the situation - with very great enjoyment.

Once again the change of government in China impacted on Jimmy's life. The flow of seminarians from South China came to an end and what had been the Regional Seminary for South China now became the Hong Kong Diocesan Seminary, staffed by local Chinese Clergy. Thus, on his return from Rome in 1964, instead of continuing teaching scripture, he returned to Hong Kong in 1965 and for the next 30 years he was engaged in a great variety of ministries: Secretary to the Superior of the Mission; Socius to the Provincial of the Vice-Province; Assistant Warden in Ricci Hall (The University Hostel); Professor of Scripture in the Seminary College. However, his main work was as Treasurer of the Vice-Province, a job he devoted himself to, with apparently endless energy. Those who are expert in financial matters testify that Jimmy did an outstandingly good job as Treasurer, He got the finances into excellent shape, and to this day tributes are paid to the very fine job he did.

While making the finances of the Vice-Province (and later Province) of Hong Kong his first priority, Jimmy also found time to engage in much pastoral work. He taught scripture in the Seminary College, and was also "ordinary confessor" for many years to a group of Irish Columban Sisters. Their appreciation of his many years of faithful service was shown by the attendance of a large number of the Sisters at his funeral in Gardiner St. Jimmy also said Mass regularly in the Catholic Centre, in downtown Hong Kong. He was also available to a number of people who came to him for advice and counselling. His sympathy and understanding were much appreciated by those who turned to him for help.

Thus, Jimmy led a very full, active life, in spite of poor health. Many years ago he underwent major surgery for cancer and subsequently was troubled by many different aliments, including diverticulitis and Parkinson's. When he felt it was wise to do so, he returned to Ireland and spent the last five years of his life in Cherryfield Lodge. He often spoke to me of how grateful he was for the great personal care and attention he received during those years.

Jimmy has now gone to his well-deserved rest, leaving behind memories of a very quiet, unassuming, hard-working, devoted Jesuit. He did not wear his heart on his sleeve, but deep devotion to the Lord was abundantly evident, and a source of inspiration to all who knew him. May he rest in peace.
JG Foley, SJ


Harold Naylor writes ...

Jimmy is a man to whom the HK Jesuits owe much. For nearly three decades he looked after the HK finances carefully, prudently and successfully. He built up a fund for the aged and sick, and brought all financial matters up to date with the latest of the decrees of the General Congregations on Religious Poverty.

In 1993, he felt his days in Hong Kong were up and he returned to Ireland, where he lived at Cherryfield Lodge. He kept abreast of life in Hong Kong, and the financial world. Since he took over as Procurator, after Fr. Howatson's stroke in 1964, he had made himself ready in all matters of investment and world finance.

He came to Hong Kong with a distinguished group of scholastics, like Hal McLoughlin and Frank McGaley who are still with us. Desmond Reid in Singapore is also a strict contemporary. It was 1948 when he with three other scholastics and two priests went to Canton to learn Cantonese. With the communist advances in 1949, they came to Hong Kong and continued their language studies as guests of the French MEP priests at Battery Path. He then taught a year at Wah Yan, and he returned to Wah Yan, Kowloon, for two years from 1958 when he was Form Master in Form Five to George Zee, and also Prefect of Studies,

Called to teach at the Regional Seminary, he put himself to New Testament Studies, and then went to Rome for his Biennium at the Biblical, which he finished in 1963. Jesuit withdrawal from the Aberdeen Seminary in Feb 1964 then saw him at the Theologate in Baguio, but this only lasted a few months. The summons came to be Procurator at Ricci Hall.

He continued to teach courses at the Aberdeen Seminary for some years. His health was bad. He was a cautious and accurate man, but also compassionate and warm, and approachable when in a good mood. He kept up serious reading, especially in Scriptural studies, and had a clear and well founded theological opinions, which tended to be conservative.

We offer sympathy to his sisters Mary (O'Sullivan) and Bridie (Comiskey), many nephews, nieces and friends, not to speak of those who knew him so well in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Harold Naylor SJ


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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-


Kelly, James, 1921-2000, Jesuit priest

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966 (3 December 1926-3 December 1966)

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966


Kelly, James, 1921-2000, Jesuit priest

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966- (1966-)

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966-


Kelly, James, 1921-2000, Jesuit priest

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IE IJA J/626

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