Fr Patrick J M (PJ) Kelly SMA RIP

Fr P J Kelly SMA
1 March 1954 – 14 January 2020


The members of the Society of African Missions [SMA] are mourning the unexpected death of Fr Paddy [PJ] Kelly who died suddenly in the Parochial House in St Dympna’s parish, Kilnadeema, Loughrea, Co Galway on Tuesday, 14 January 2020.

Fr Paddy, a native of Rooghan, Lawrencetown, Ballinasloe was born in 1954 to Denis Snr. and Eileen [née Lyons], the eldest of his family. He was predeceased by his parents and sister Veronica and is deservedly mourned by his sisters Mary, Catherine, Patricia, Eileen, Dympna and his brother Denis Jnr., nieces and nephews, other relatives and friends, parishioners in Nigeria, Tanzania and Ireland.

After spending a brief period testing his vocation with the Presentation Brothers, Paddy [as he was known in his family but PJ in the SMA] began his studies for the Society in 1973, completing his Philosophy and Theology studies in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He was ordained by the late Bishop Joseph Cassidy, Coadjutor Bishop of Clonfert [later Archbishop of Tuam] in the Church of Our Lady, Lawrencetown on 15 June 1980.

In October of that year he arrived in western Nigeria where he spent 15 years working in Osi, Offa, Agwara, Ilorin Town, Ekan Meji and Guffanti parishes of Ilorin diocese. Fr Paddy was skilled with languages, becoming fluent in Yoruba, a tonal language spoken in western Nigeria. When working in the north of the diocese, in Agwara and Guffanti, he quickly acquired fluency in the Hausa language, which was the common language in that part of the diocese [Ilorin at that time was about 60% the size of Ireland].

Recalled to Ireland in 1996, he was part of the SMA Promotions team. For three years he travelled around different parts of the country making people aware of the missionary work of the Church and, particularly, that of the SMA.

His heart was always in Africa and he returned there in 1999, this time to East Africa, to the diocese of Shinyanga in Tanzania. Again, he devoted his early months to becoming fluent in Swahili [one of the principal languages of east Africa] and Kisukuma, the local language in the Mwandoya and Kilulu parishes where he worked.

Fr Paddy had a great way with the people, spending hours just sitting with them, chatting, learning their stories and listening to their cares and worries. But he was also their pastor, and he gave himself totally to their spiritual welfare, travelling for hours to far-distant outstations to celebrate Mass and the other sacraments, sleeping in the ‘sacristy’ of the simple churches he, or others, had built with the help of the people. He kept himself up to date theologically, reading the latest books available which he brought from Ireland or bought in Nairobi, Kenya.

Fr Paddy returned to Ireland in 2016 and, in July 2017, he took on the pastoral responsibility for the parishioners of St Dympna’s parish, Kilnadeema in his home diocese of Clonfert. He is deeply regretted by Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop emeritus John Kirby, the clergy, religious and people of the diocese, particularly the parishioners of Kilnadeema, where he endeared himself to the people by his warm and welcoming spirit.

Funeral arrangements

Sunday, 19 January: Reposing in St Dympna’s Church, Kilnadeema from 3pm to 6pm.
Monday, 20 January: Requiem Mass in St Dympna’s at 12 noon, followed by removal to St Joseph’s SMA Parish Church, Wilton, Cork, arriving at 7pm.
Tuesday, 21 January: Following Mass in St Joseph’s at 12 noon, Fr Paddy will be buried in the adjoining SMA cemetery.

Ya Allah, ka yi masa jinkai [Hausa: O God, be merciful to him]
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

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