Born: 05 January 1902, Athlone, County Westmeath
Entered: 01 September 1919, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 14 June 1932, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1935, Holy Spirit Seminary, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Died: 17 February 1974, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia - Macau-Hong Kong Province (MAC-HK)
Part of the St Francis Xavier, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia community at the time of death
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
Transcribed HIB to HK : 03 December 1966
by 1934 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
by 1935 at Wah Yan, Hong Kong - working
◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Death of Father Brian Kelly S.J.
Father Brian Kelly, S.J., formerly of Hong Kong died in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 18 February 1974, aged 72.
Father Kelly was born in Ireland in 1902. He became a Jesuit in 1919, was ordained priest in 1932 and came to Hong Kong in 1934.
From 1934 to 1954, Father Kelly served as a teacher in Wah Yan (1934-1935 & 1947-1954), as Warden of Ricci Hall (1936-1947), and as a teacher in St. Louis Gonzaga College, Macau during the Occupation years. In 1954 he was transferred to Singapore and later to Kuala Lumpur, as assistant parish priest in either city.
In his last year as a teacher in Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, Father Kelly had in his form a boy called Gabriel Lam. It is to be hoped the news of Mgr. Gabriel Lam’s appointment as Vicar General of the diocese of Hong Kong arrived in Kuala Lumpur in time to cheer his last days.
In all posts he showed himself a man of intense concentration on his work. When he was teaching, his boys in his classes and their work seemed to be his sole interest in life. His devotion to the wardenship of Ricci Hall was equally intense. In the years following the war he organised retreats in the Aberdeen Seminary with similar devotion there was no regular retreat house in Hong Kong at the time.
His unremitting concentration on the posts he held was due in part to unjustified distrust of his powers. Thus, though he was possibly the best preacher among the Hong Kong Jesuits he treated every sermon as a something altogether beyond him, and he could never be persuaded that he has next sermon would not be dismally inadequate.
This self-distrust did not hinder him when anyone was in need of advice or help, nor did it prevent his being an amusing and companionable friend. The news of his death will be greeted with many a sigh.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 22 February 1974
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 23rd Year No 1 1948
Gardiner Street :
Fr. R. Kennedy supplied in the Church for some weeks before leaving for China on October 8th. Fr. Brian Kelly has been at work with us since September. He preached on Mission Sunday.
Fr. E. Sullivan stayed with us on two occasions since his arrival from Hong Kong.
Irish Province News 49th Year No 2 1974
Fr Brian Kelly (1902-1974)
Fr Brian Kelly died at Ipoh, W. Malaysia, on Sunday, February 17th; he was buried there after Requiem Mass at St Michael's Church at 11 a.m. on the 19th, another Requiem being celebrated simultaneously in his old parish of the Assumption, Petaling Jaya. In the previous week he had attended a catechetical seminar in Cameron Highlands, and returned to Ipoh feeling tired and unwell. He had a heart attack during morning Mass on 17th, was anointed by Fr Paul Jenkins, and after another attack died about 5.30 in the evening shortly after the arrival of Fr Eddie Bourke from KL Born on 2nd January 1902, Fr Brian was at school at Clongowes where he was received into the Sodality of the Holy Angels by Fr John Sullivan for whom he retained a great reverence and who was his confessor and adviser. Entering the Society in 1919, he was ordained in 1932 and came to Hong King in 1934 to teach at Wah Yan.
In Hong Kong, Requiem Mass for him was concelebrated at Ricci Hall on 22nd, and also at Catholic Centre attended by old boys from St. Luis Gonzaga for whom Fr Albert Cooney had arranged the Mass.
Fr Eddie Bourke has contributed the following tribute to Fr, Brian :
It was Fr Brian Kelly's vocation to travel to various places and be given many and diversified assignments. He was one of the early procurators of the Mission and for several years was the business manager of the Rock, while teaching or acting as warden. He taught in the old Wah Yan College and was an excellent teacher. He was an outstanding warden of university hostels, at Ricci in Hong Kong and later in Kingsmead Hall in Singapore and of Xavier Hall in Petaling Jaya. He was one of the wonderful team of five who conducted a school for refugees from Hong Kong in Macau during the war. The later years of his life were spent in devoted pastoral work in St Ignatius parish, Singapore, and seven years in the parish of the Assumption, Petaling Jaya. The last few years of his life were spent in Ipoh where he was chaplain to Our Lady’s Hospital, taught doctrine in the Brothers' school and helped in two parishes.
In all these diversified occupations he showed a great power of application of mind. He had always a number of catechumens whom he was preparing for baptism. These were not only those who came to him for instruction but those also for whom he had fished. The number of those he prepared for baptism cannot easily be traced, but one of them is Mgr Gabriel Lam the new vicar general of the Hong Kong diocese.
Fr Brian had many special gifts or charisms : one was a very special manner in dealing with altar servers. He was able to inculcate a sense of decorum and above all of reverence. When you. visited a sacristy where his servers were you found that they kept silence in the sacristy and a few moments before Mass they of themselves gathered round a crucifix and recited a beautiful prayer which he had composed for them. They are now grown up men but they remember him it was interesting to see that many of his old servers got a mini-bus and travelled the 150 miles from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh for the funeral.
As warden, Fr Brian was one of those, and I think they are few, who were able to utilise the opportunity that a hostel for university students affords for influencing the undergraduates. What we might call the golden age of Ricci Hall was due to Fr Brian. He was responsible for instilling a great loyalty into the students, organising lectures which would help them to keep their knowledge of their faith in line with the advancement made in their other studies. In his last year I know that he had three candidates for our noviceship and their entering was prevented by their being dispersed by the war. These three are now outstanding in their Catholic apostolate. His success as warden in Ricci was the reason I presume that Fr Paddy Joy asked for him to come to Malaysia to take charge of Kingsmead Hall, and when it was well established he was sent to be the first warden of Xavier Hall.
One incident during the battle for Hong Kong shows him in a heroic role. The drivers of ambulances refused to enter no-man's land between the opposing forces unless they were accompanied by a priest. Brian was one of those who volunteered for the position and all of us admired his courage. For nearly a week the ambulances had to bring wounded and dying from places under fire especially in Happy Valley. Brian faced the danger in a most unobtrusive manner. To one of his gentle disposition such work was heroic.
The war saw him in Macau. Fr Joy was asked to start a school for students who had to leave Hong Kong and were refugees in Macau. They were mostly Portuguese and Eurasians whose fathers were interned. Fr Joy sent Frs Tom and Albert Cooney, H. O'Brien, Jerry McCarthy and Brian. The influence they had on the students, the education they gave them and the spirit of enterprise that they instilled was remarkable, and many of them have reached high positions in their professions in Hong Kong, the US and elsewhere.
In Hong Kong, Fr Brian was zealous in getting people to make retreats especially in the Seminary, and in Ricci. This meant much personal visiting people. He used go to offices in the city and meet past students of his, graduates and office workers, and did not leave till he had booked them for weekend retreats. Later in Kingsmead and in Xavier Hall he succeeded in organising weekend retreats for several years.
Pastoral work of apostolic visitation of families was the great work awaiting him in Singapore and Malaysia. To do this, he began to take driving lessons at the age of 55 in Singapore's dense traffic, and failed his first test because he drove too slowly; his instructor's prophecy came true, that he would have accidents from people bumping into him from behind. For seven years in the Assumption parish Fr Brian visited the six or seven hundred families of the parish, setting off regularly about 5.30 pm and spending several hours visiting. He knew where every family lived and their “status animae”, knew them by name, and knew all the problem cases, whom he visited more frequently. On his death there was disappointment that he was not brought back for burial to the parish where he was so well known and loved.
For the past five years or so he had been in Ipoh where his work was firstly to act as chaplain to the Sisters of the Divine Motherhood in their hospital, to attend to the sick in the hospital and give guidance to the nursing staff. In addition to this he used visit the general hospital, give instruction to the postulants of the Brothers of Mercy, teach doctrine to a class in the Brothers’ school, instruct catechumens whom the Redemptorist Fathers sent to him.
Shortly before his death Fr Brian was discussing how to get Matt Talbot made patron to whom drug addicts could resort for strength and help. He was also inviting people to join him in getting the sick who receive Communion weekly in their homes to offer some of their sufferings for vocations, hoping there would thus be an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in Malaysia.
Some thirty priests, including six Jesuits from KL, Singapore and Penang, concelebrated the funeral Mass with the Bishop of Penang, and Fr Paul Jenkins gave a fine homily,
We extend sympathy to Brian’s sister, Miss M P Kelly of Dublin who is a benefactress of our Province, and to his brother Mr A B Kelly of Vancouver.