Born: 21 October 1823, Dublin
Entered: 24 April 1850, Amiens, France - Franciae Province (FRA)
Final vows: 15 August 1881
Died 30 January 1909, Milltown Park, Dublin
Older brother of Edward - RIP 1905 and Thomas - RIP 1898
by 1854 at Laval France (FRA) studying Theology 4
by 1856 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) teaching Theology
1st Missioner to Australia with Joseph Lentaigne 1865
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Older brother of Edward - RIP 1905 and Thomas - RIP 1898
Paraphrase and excerpts from a Tribute which appeared in the Melbourne Advocate :
“The Jesuit Order in particular and the Church in general have lost a cultured and fearless champion of Catholicity by the lamented death of Rev William Kelly SJ, who may be said to have died in harness, as when the summons came the Rev gentleman held the Chair of Ecclesiastical History in the famous College of the Order at Milltown Park.
Last Sunday, the Mission Superior of Jesuits in Australia, Thomas P Brown, received a cable message announcing the death of Father Kelly at the ripe old age of 86. .......
The late Father Kelly was in the very forefront of scholars, and did he desire it, that very conservative body, the French Academy, would have put his name on the Roll of Honour, so deep and thorough was his scholarship. Science and Art owe him a great debt of gratitude, for he did much for the advance of Science. He accompanied a gathering of the Members of the Royal Society for observing a transit of Venus, and for the promotion of military knowledge, he also did much. Those who had the privilege of listening to his lectures and sermons will never forget the power of his eloquence and his magnetic force of the treatment of the subject. He was, in a sense, an alchemist, for he had the power of turning anything he touched into gold. As a controversialist, he stood head and shoulders above his opponents. One of his masterly efforts was the vindication of the truth of eternal punishment. The late Archbishop Roger Vaughan of Sydney erected a Catholic Bible Hall in the capital, where lectures were given on Scripture and Sacred History by the late Father Kelly. He declined to discuss subtle biblical questions except with scholars, and this sometimes led to amusing episodes. Whilst in Victoria, he had very little leisure time, with calls for sermons and lectures taking up his attention. He also had charge of University classes at St Patrick’s College. He was born in Dublin 31 October 1823, and at the time of his death was in his 86th year. He made studies at Maynooth, at Laval and then Entered the Jesuits 24 April 1850. Just before leaving for Australia, he was on active Missionary work and had taught in the Colleges in Britain and Ireland. He was for some time Professor of Theology at St Beuno’s.
With Fr Joseph Lentaigne, Father Kelly reached Victoria in 1865. For years he worked zealously in Melbourne and Sydney, and in the latter he was wont to deliver two lectures a week on ecclesiastical subjects. He was a lecturer in Moral Philosophy at St John’s College within Sydney University, and he taught at the Jesuit College there too. he left Australia in 1889 and worked in Ireland until his death”.
1889 He returned to Ireland from Australia and became a distinguished Theologian at the newly opened Theologate at Milltown. And he lived and worked there until his death 30 January 1909, twenty years after his return.
He was a great personal friend of Archbishop James Goold of Melbourne, and travelled round with him a great deal. In Dr Goold’s Journals, he frequently made mention of William Kelly’s activities, such as : Sermon at the laying of the foundation stone at St Kilda’s; Sermon at St Augustine’s; Sermon at Blessing of Bell - St Francis; Month’s Mind of Dr James Quinn of Brisbane; At Requiem of Reverend Mother at Abbotsford; Installation of Dr Michael O’Connor at Ballarat; Special sermons at Heidelberg, Maryborough and Williamstown; At laying of foundation stone at Kew College. These are but a few of his activities. He preached up and down Australia, gave lectures, answered attacks on the Church, all through the 24 years he spent in Australia. 1865 to 1889.
Note from Joseph O’Malley Entry :
He made his Noviceship in France with William Kelly, and then remained there for studies with Eugene Browne and Edmund Hogan
Note from Charles O’Connell Sr Entry :
William E Kelly, Superior at Hawthorn, says in a letter 09 April 1912 to Thomas Wheeler “Poor Father Charlie was on his way from his room to say the 8 o’clock Mass, when a few yards from his room he felt faint and had a chair brought to him. Thomas Claffey, who had just returned from saying Mass at the Convent gave him Extreme Unction. Thomas Gartlan and I arrived, and within twenty minutes he had died without a struggle. The evening before he had been seeing some sick people, and we have since learned complained of some heart pain. Up to the last he did his usual work, taking everything in his turn, two Masses on Sundays, sermons etc, as the rest of us. We shall miss him very much as he was a charming community man.
Note from John McInerney Menologies Entry :
He went afterwards to St Patrick’s College, Melbourne, and there he had amongst his teachers Fathers William Kelly, Frank Murphy and William Hughes.
◆ Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University online
Kelly, William (1823–1909)
by G. J. O'Kelly
G. J. O'Kelly, 'Kelly, William (1823–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kelly-william-3937/text6195, published first in hardcopy 1974
academic; Catholic priest; schoolteacher
Died : 30 January 1909, Dublin, Ireland
William Kelly (1823-1909), Jesuit priest, was born on 21 October 1823 in Dublin, Ireland. After secondary education he entered Maynooth seminary but was expelled because of a poem he wrote in sympathy for the 'Young Ireland' movement. Later he applied for admission to the Society of Jesus and was accepted on 24 April 1850. On 21 September 1865 he arrived at Port Phillip with Joseph Lentaigne who became rector of St Patrick's College, East Melbourne; they were the first Irish Jesuits in the colony. For the next twelve years Kelly was officially master of the matriculation class at St Patrick's but was also appointed by his superior, Joseph Dalton, to teach philosophy and theology to the students for the diocesan priesthood then housed at the college.
Kelly's repute as a versatile scholar did not rest simply on his classroom activities. He excelled as a polemicist and was the most celebrated Catholic preacher in Victoria from 1866 to 1877. Almost weekly the press carried reports of his Town Hall lectures and apologias. Dr James Goold's diary for 1869 has him preaching at thirteen special functions all over Victoria, and Howard Willoughby claimed that 'Father Kelly is the orator chosen in Melbourne when the Church has to show that her right hand still possesses its cunning … He is the controversialist called upon to confute error in the lecture-hall, and win ringing applause from fiery partisans'. He was very popular and his speeches were often interrupted by 'deafening applause'. Perhaps his most celebrated doctrinal controversy was with Dr John Bromby in several Town Hall lectures on the existence of hell. From 1869, although Kelly's most frequent topic was secular education, he also lectured in such diverse fields as history, zoology, literature, physics, astronomy and chemistry. In 1871 his paper on tests for arsenic to the Royal Society of Victoria won him election to its council in 1872-73. Optics and astronomy were his favourite fields and in 1882 the Royal Astronomical Society invited him to join the party which intended to observe the transit of Venus from the Blue Mountains.
In 1878 Dalton sent Kelly to Sydney as prefect of studies at St Kilda House, the forerunner to St Aloysius College. In Sydney he revealed himself less as a polemicist and more as a scholar, and so never attained the popularity that he had in Victoria. In 1888 he was recalled to Ireland to profess Greek and Hebrew to the Jesuit theological students at Milltown Park. At 80 he was credited with undertaking the study of Persian. He died on 30 January 1909 in Dublin.
H. Willoughby, The Critic in Church (Melb, 1872)
Age (Melbourne), 1 Feb 1909
Jesuit and St Patrick's College records (Jesuit Provincial Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne).
◆ Jesuits in Ireland :
Commemorating the sesquicentenary of the arrival of Irish Jesuits in Australia
This year the Australian Province of the Jesuits are commemorating the sesquicentenary of the arrival of Irish Jesuits in Australia. Australia became the first overseas mission of the Irish Jesuit Province. To mark the occasion the Archdiocese of Melbourne are organising a special thanksgiving Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne 27 September. On 20 June Damien Burke, Assistant Archivist, Irish Jesuit Archives gave a talk at the 21st Australasian Irish Studies conference, Maynooth University, titled “The archives of the Irish Jesuit Mission to Australia, 1865-1931”. In his address Damien described the work of this mission with reference to a number of documents and photographs concerning it that are held at the Irish Jesuit Archives.
Irish Jesuits worked mainly as missionaries, and educators in the urban communities of eastern Australia. The mission began when two Irish Jesuits Frs. William Lentaigne and William Kelly, arrived in Melbourne in 1865 at the invitation of Bishop James Alipius Goold, the first Catholic bishop of Melbourne. They were invited by the Bishop to re-open St. Patrick’s College, Melbourne, a secondary school, and to undertake the Richmond mission. From 1865 onwards, the Irish Jesuits formed parishes and established schools while working as missionaries, writers, chaplains, theologians, scientists and directors of retreats, mainly in the urban communities of eastern Australia. By 1890, 30% of the Irish Province resided in Australia.
By 1931, this resulted in five schools, eight residences, a regional seminary in Melbourne and a novitiate in Sydney. Dr Daniel Mannix, archbishop of Melbourne, showed a special predication for the Jesuits and requested that they be involved with Newman College, University of Melbourne in 1918. Six Jesuits (five were Irish-born) served as chaplains with the Australian Forces in the First World War and two died, Frs Michael Bergin and Edwards Sydes. Both Michael Bergin and 62 year-old Joe Hearn, earned the Military Cross. Bergin was the only Catholic chaplain serving with the Australian Imperial Force to have died as a result of enemy action in the First World War.
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
William Kelly studied for the diocesan priesthood at Maynooth but left without completing his course because he had written a poem in sympathy for the “Young Ireland” movement. He entered the Jesuits 24 April 1850, at the age of 26. There is no record of his work in Ireland before he arrived in Australia 1865, where he taught matriculation students and seminarians at St Patrick’s College, East Melbourne.
While in Melboune he produced at least two dramas that were published. The first was “The Young Queen : Will She Tell? A Christian Drama in Three Acts”, composed for the students of the Convent School of Our Lady of Mercy, Perth, Western Australia, published in 1871. The second was “Marie Antionette, A Drama in Three Acts” 1875. The first was described by William as “embodying some of the principle agencies made use of by Divine Providence for the conversion of the pagan world”, while the second was written entirely in rhyming pentameters with songs and original music.
He moved to Sydney and St Kilda House in 1879, teaching the boys Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy until 1889. He also gave lectures in Logic and metaphysics at St John’s College within the University of Sydney for an annual fee of £100, and many public lectures on the Scriptures' and Catholic dogma. He was in demand for occasional sermons at the opening of churches and solemn festivals.. He was also a poet, linguist, controversialist and missioner, remaining in Australia 24 years. He returned to Ireland in July 1889 to become a Professor of Scripture, Hebrew and Church History at the Jesuit Theologate in Milltown Park.
He was one of the most gifted Jesuits ever to have worked in Australia. Only superlatives are used to describe his gifts, “a veritable polymath, poet, scientist linguist, scripture scholar, controversialist and preacher”. He was adept in Science, Mathematics, History, the Classics, Arabic, Syriac and Sanskrit. As an Astronomer he was highly esteemed by the Royal Astronomical Society. He had worked with them in observing the transit of Venus that took place in 1882.
He was recognised for his wit, good humour and modesty. He completely supported the traditional Jesuit emphasis on a classical education, Mathematics and astronomy.
His students appear to have reacted to him with awe. He was loved and admired at St Patrick’s College, where he taught all nine matriculation subjects, to which he added Chemistry and Physics. He particularly enjoyed preparing academic vignettes with the students for speech day entertainment. He was equally at home with music, drama, recitations in different languages and debates.. One former student reckoned him to be a better lecturer than teacher, but he was above all a kind and lovable person, “most affable and amiable and intimately known by his pupils”. He was a good friend to his students, sharing “the encyclopaedic repository of his gigantic intellect”.
As with many Jesuits, his contribution to Australian education was not restricted to the classroom. He entered every kind of religious controversy, not least the religious education debate in Victoria in the 1870s. His farewell, amid much ceremony, from Victoria was an emotional affair, his departure being considered a tragedy for the Church in that colony. A similar ceremony was held by the Catholic community in Sydney on his departure to Ireland, at which he was praised for his eloquence, devotion and unsurpassable kindness of heart, as priest, scholar and gentleman. His equal was rarely seen again among the Jesuits in Australia.
Note from Walter Steins Entry
Under medical advice he sailed for Europe on 4 May, but was forced to break his journey in Sydney, and went to St Kilda House. Here his condition became worse, and on 4 August, William Kelly said Mass, administered extreme unction and gave him viaticum. Steins held on for a few more weeks until he finally died.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 1st Year No 1 1925
St Patrick’s College, Melbourne has just celebrated its Diamond Jubilee as a Jesuit College. It is the mother house of the Australian Mission.
On September 21st 1865, Fathers Joseph Lentaigne and William Kelly, the pioneer Missioners of the Society in Victoria, landed in Melbourne and took over the College.
On September 17th, 1866 , the second contingent of Irish priests arrived - Fr. Joseph Dalton, Fr. Edmund Nolan, Fr. David McKiniry and two lay brothers - Br. Michael Scully and Br. Michael Goodwin.
Irish Province News 5th Year No 2 1930
St Aloysius College Sydney Australia : Golden Jubilee
St Aloysius College celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its Foundation in the course of last year. The principal functions were held on the 22nd July, and from the 25th to the 29th September.
The beginning of the College is mentioned in Fr, Dalton's diary, under date Nov. 21st 1878. After much negotiation terms were accepted for St. Kilda House at £260 rent per annum. At that date, if the Jesuits, at the invitation of Archbishop Vaughan, had not come to the rescue, there would not have been a single Catholic College in Sydney.
The College was opened early in 1879 with Fr. Dalton as first Rector and Fr, Wm Kelly, Prefect of Studies At the first distribution of prizes, Dec. 23rd 1879, Archbishop Vaughan presided, and claimed the responsibility of having brought the Jesuits to Sydney. “It is I who invited Fr. Beckx, the venerable and saintly General of the Society of Jesus, to found a school and finally a College in Sydney, and gladly do I publicly acknowledge before you all my great gratification at having done so”.