Archbishop Kelly was a great and humble servant of the Church, and he loved the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville. I came to know him while I was as a young layman working for the US Bishops’ Conference. Archbishop Kelly was the Chairman for the Ad Hoc Committee for the 1987 Papal Visit to the United States of Pope John Paul II. I was hired at that time as the assistant coordinator of the visit.
I came to know and love Archbishop Kelly in short order. He had a great wit, and an even greater intellect. He could tell a story like few others, and he had a great appreciation for the “humanity of the Church”. He was a great student of the human person. I came to work for the Bishops after graduating from college, and leaving the seminary believing at that time that God was not calling me to the priesthood. After the Papal Visit’s conclusion, I was thinking seriously of marriage, and wanted to move back to the Midwest.
Archbishop Kelly agreed to “open some doors” with Humana in Louisville. I had two interviews with them for their management training program. After the second interview, I called Archbishop Kelly and told him that he would be getting a phone call, as he was at the top of my list of personal references. I’ll never forget his response. First, he laughed, and then he said: “Paul, why don’t you just go back to the seminary and become a priest and be happy for the rest of your life?!”
Thanks to Archbishop Kelly’s jovial advice (and probably his discreet intervention with Humana personnel asking them not to hire me!), I eventually ended up back in the seminary. And, the rest as they say, “is history.”
Rest in peace, Archbishop!
For an even better and more personal reflection upon the life of Archbishop Kelly, I encourage you to visit my friend, Bishop Lynch’s blog.