Brother Tom Kelly
CINCINNATI (Feb. 15, 2011)—Brother Thomas Kelly, 81, a native of Sidney, Ohio, and a Glenmary Home Missioner for over 60 years, died peacefully Feb. 13 at Mercy Franciscan Terrace health care facility in Cincinnati.
Brother Tom took his First Oath as a Glenmary member in 1950. During his years in ministry, he served at six Glenmary missions in five states, at Glenmary's house of formation, and as head of Glenmary's print shop. For several years he was a key part of Glenmary's Backroads Ministry in South Georgia. He took senior membership in 1998 but continued working as a parish brother in Vanceburg, Ky. He returned to Glenmary's residence in Cincinnati in 2002, where he lived until moving to Franciscan Terrace.
"Glenmarians often talk about the importance of a ministry of presence-meaning just being with, listening and talking to people," says Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary. "Brother Tom had many talents and gifts that he shared with others during his life. But in his soft-spoken, easygoing way, he also impacted people by who he was. He affected many lives through his own ministry of gentle presence."
When Brother Tom entered Glenmary in 1948, he was already familiar with the society's mission and ministry. His brother, Father Jim Kelly, had joined in 1945 and was serving as secretary to Glenmary's founder, Father William Howard Bishop.
"I knew I felt a call from God and...I put my trust in him," said Brother Tom on the occasion of his 60th jubilee. Life as a brother, he said, was "a perfect match" for him, because he could belong to a community and use his skills and abilities as a handyman to serve the Church and people in need. His personality was also a good fit for the range of assignments he took on.
After completing his brotherhood training and novitiate program in 1950, Brother Tom, who was one of the first brothers to take the Glenmary Oath, spent his first four years in ministry at Glenmary's mission in Appalachia, Va. He moved on to serve at the Otway, Ohio, mission for two years and as house brother for Glenmary's formation program for four years before returning to Appalachia, Va., for a second stay, ending in 1962. He then served as head of Glenmary's print shop in Cincinnati for four years.
Other mission assignments followed for Brother Tom-in West Union, Ohio, for six years and Spencer, W.Va., for four years. Then in 1976, he became the first volunteer for Glenmary's innovative Backroads Ministry, begun by Glenmary to serve "the poorest of the poor" in rural South Georgia.
Until 1984, he and Brother Ralph Riehle lived among the poor in and around the town of Manassas. Their ministry focused on building and repairing homes-and simply spending time with local folks. Through their outreach, a Catholic presence was established in an area where the majority of the residents had never met a Catholic.
Brother Tom, after spending the next seven years working at Glenmary Headquarters, served at the Russellville, Ala., mission for six years before receiving senior member status in 1998. In retirement, he lived near the Vanceburg, Ky., mission and worked as long as he was able: "I get to do things I really enjoy," he said then, "like handyman work at the parish and the local Christian Community Center."
Brother Tom is survived by his brothers Glenmary Father James Kelly of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Jerome (Barbara) of Costa Mesa, Calif., sister-in-law Geraldine (Kelly) Bodnar, nephews, nieces, cousins, fellow Glenmary missioners and friends. He was preceded in death by four brothers and two sisters.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Glenmary Home Missioners, P.O. Box 465618, Cincinnati, OH 45246.