Meet our priests: Msgr. Francis H. Kelley

Parish/assignment: Pastor, Sacred Heart Church in Roslindale

Place of birth: Boston

How many brothers and sisters do you have? None

High school: Boston College High School

College/university/ seminary

Undergraduate -- College of the Holy Cross, 1963

Graduate 1 -- MA in Pastoral Theology, University of Notre Dame

Seminary (Theology) -- St. John’s Seminary, Brighton

Date of ordination: 1968

What assignments have you had since ordination?

Deacon, Our Lady of the Angels, Roxbury, 1967-1968; St. Ambrose, Dorchester 1968-75; St. John the Baptist, Peabody 1976-1983; St. Boniface, Quincy 1983-1991; Sacred Heart Roslindale, 1991- present

What have been some of the greatest joys for you as a priest?

Figuring out how to build up a church in a parish community; learning to pray with a parish community; sharing a bit of people’s faith lives within a parish; working with many saints in sheltering the homeless

Who influenced your vocation most to consider the priesthood?

The largest influence upon the share I have in Christ’s priesthood is my parents. They never said a thing about priesthood, but their lives of faith opened doors for me. In addition, a number of good friends brought me to pay attention to the call of Christ and they have sustained me through these years. They include Father Bill Morgan and Ed Corrigan in my home parish of St. John’s in Canton; my own classmates Father Gene Sullivan and Father Jim Hickey; my good friends Paul Sullivan of Pine Street, Vin McCarthy, Bob and Karylann Walsh, Joe and Joan Maher.

What events or practices in your life helped you to discover and discern your call to the priesthood?

For me the significant events that led me to the priesthood have been works of charity. Learning how to help other people and in return receiving back their blessing challenged me in the beginning and has sustained me each day of my life.

What is one of your favorite scripture passages and why?

My favorite story is the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2 Luke 5 or Matt 9). There is a phrase that says “Jesus saw their faith”. These four friends carry the paralytic to Jesus for forgiveness and healing. This is a wonderful picture of a parish. Sometimes we are carried to Christ; other times we are carrying someone to Christ.

What are some of your hobbies?

I do love to fly-fish. Father Gene Sullivan has taught me all I know about fly fishing. And I do enjoy hiking a bit in the woods. From my parents, I gained a love of reading and talking.

What advice would you give to a young man who is considering the priesthood?

Do the works of mercy, learn to listen to God, and read the scriptures. God will make clear the path. Trust him.

What are some of your favorite books/ spiritual reading/ magazines?

N.T. Wright, “Following Jesus”; Esther DeWaal, “Lost in Wonder”; Gruen, “Water For Elephants”; and any mysteries by Tanenbaum, Grafton, Tapley, Francis, and any others as well. As for magazines my favorites are Church, the New Yorker, America, Commonweal.

Through the cardinal, God is calling each of us personally to help rebuild His Church. How must the priest respond to this mandate today?

Pope John Paul II set the model by continually asking for forgiveness as we approached the third millennium. The first act for the priest is to follow in his footsteps by asking the forgiveness of our people for any abuse of our young people. If we are to rebuild our church the priest needs to ask forgiveness in hundreds of different ways. And what is next God will make clear if we are patient.

When Cardinal Seán came to Boston, he wrote a pastoral letter entitled: “Vocations: Everybody’s Business.” What are some ways that we can help all individuals and families understand their role in promoting and supporting vocations?

What strikes me more than anything is that we stress and teach the idea that each person has a vocation. If each Catholic discovers the vocation within him or her, then we grow as a People of God.

Featured Website:

Upcoming Events in the Vocation Office

Jan. 21-23: Pro-Life Pilgrimage of High School Students to Washington D.C.

Jan. 31: Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate at the Holy Cross Cathedral

Feb. 6: Cardinal’s Discernment Retreat at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston

Feb. 6-8: Cardinal’s Discernment Retreat at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton

The content of Meet our Priests is provided by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office for Vocations.