Br Ignatius Kelly OFM

Ignatius was born on 5th August 1923 in Rossmore, Riverstown, Co Sligo, and was baptised Hugh. His parents were Hugh and Catherine (Corcoran). He had three brothers and five sisters, and is survived by one of his sisters, Sr Patricia Kelly. After his initial education he came to St Bernadine’s College, Buckingham, which then functioned as a Junior Seminary, where he studied 1937-1942; he was recommended to the Friars by the Curate of Riverstown, a Father Roddy.

Hugh received the habit and began his Franciscan novitiate at Chilworth on 4th September 1942. He was given his religious name, Ignatius. He completed his novitiate year, but left Chilworth and did not proceed to First Profession. He received the habit a second time on 15th March 1945, and having completed a second novitiate, made First Profession at Chilworth on 16th March 1946.

Ignatius then began to study philosophy in preparation for the Priesthood at Woodford Green. Later that year he moved to the recently opened student house at East Bergholt, Suffolk, where he continued his study, 1946-1948. He then went to the Antonianum in Rome to study theology, 1948-1954. It was there he gained his licentiate and doctorate in theology. It was also in Rome that Ignatius made his Solemn Profession (19th March 1949) and was ordained to the Priesthood (8th July 1951). From 1954 to 1957, he taught systematic theology at East Bergholt, and was Assistant Master of Students.

In 1957, he was called to the General Curia of the Order in Rome to do secretarial work. He regretted having to leave his teaching post at East Bergholt, and went to Rome with some reluctance, but in a spirit of obedience.

Ignatius returned to East Bergholt in 1959 and continued to teach systematic theology. He was Assistant Student Master, and eventually became Student Master. He took a sabbatical break 1971-1972 at Harvard Divinity School. When the Friars left East Bergholt in 1973 Ignatius moved to the new Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and taught theology there till 1987. He was greatly appreciated as a theologian not only by his own community, but also by the Conventual Friars, who had studied with us at East Bergholt since 1966, and by the Redemptorists and Capuchin Friars, and by many Religious Sisters and others who went to the Franciscan Study Centre for the year-long renewal courses that were part of the academic programme for many years.

In 1984, he was elected Vicar Provincial of the English Province, and then Minister Provincial in 1987, when the previous Minister, Fr Luke Faupel, resigned for health reasons. He moved to Forest Gate, and was Provincial for three years. In 1990, he moved to Chilworth and was at various times Assistant Novice Master, and Vicar.

On a number of occasions in his years as a teacher, and subsequently, he was called upon to serve the Order in different capacities. He attended General Chapters as Assistant Secretary or peritus (theological expert). He conducted Visitations of five Provinces: St Paul, Malta; Santa Barbara, California; Holy Spirit, Australia; Holy Name, New York; and Ireland.

For many years, Ignatius was in demand as a preacher of retreats to Franciscan Friars and Sisters, other Religious, lay groups, and priests, in England, Scotland and Ireland. He took part in a number of sessions of the Franciscan Challenge Course at St Isidore’s in Rome. Many lay people and religious came to him for spiritual direction and counsel. He gave up travelling to preach retreats when his health began to fail.

When the Friars were preparing to withdraw from Chilworth, Ignatius moved to Woodford Green (2010), and remained there till his deteriorating health indicated the need for full-time care. The Friars are most grateful to Br Raymond who took great care of Ignatius in his years at Woodford, and also to members of the parish community who helped to look after him and advise on his care.

Ignatius went to St Joseph’s Nursing Home, Littlehampton, in February 2016. He had known many of the Sisters, going back to the days at East Bergholt and Canterbury. They received him in the loving Franciscan spirit to which we have become accustomed, and cared for him in his final months. He died there on Sunday 8th January, 2017, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.