Obituary: Benedictine Father Joel Kelly

Benedictine Father Joel Kelly, 80, died June 8 in the retirement center at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, June 13, at 10:30 a.m. (livestreamed at in St. John’s Abbey and University Church with interment in St. John’s Cemetery following the service. The monastic reception of the body and wake service in the abbey church on Friday, June 12, at 7 p.m., will also be livestreamed.

Daniel Joseph Kelly was born Sept. 1, 1939, in Darwin, Minnesota, the fourth of five children of Stanley James and Verna (Lindberg) Kelly. He attended Darwin Grade School and Litchfield High School, graduating in 1957. He entered St. John’s University as a priesthood student that year and was accepted as a novice at St. John’s Abbey in 1959. Taking the monastic name of Joel, he professed first vows on July 11, 1960, with solemn profession in 1963. Father Kelly was ordained June 4, 1966.

Father Kelly later earned master’s degrees in education and counseling psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. During his studies there, he assisted at the parishes of St. Ignatius and St. Jerome.

Early on he served as prefect, chaplain and theology teacher at St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville, and in St. John’s mission community of San Antonio Abad, Humacao, Puerto Rico, teaching religion and serving in local parishes. He also served at St. Boniface Parish in Cold Spring, and later at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, Harvey, Illinois, as a clinical supervisor of the in-patient alcohol addiction treatment program and as the director of the education and training department.

Father Kelly returned to St. John’s Abbey in 1984 as the University chaplain, a position he held until 1992. He was the initiating force in creating, with Brother Kelly Ryan in 1987, the first three-week January-term monastic immersion program that attracted dozens of upperclassmen who participated in the daily life and prayer of the monks. The next 10 years he was a full-time chaplain at the St. Cloud Department of Corrections, and assisted at St. Augustine Parish in St. Cloud. During this time, Father Kelly also was a St. John’s faculty resident with freshmen in Mary Hall for eight years and another 12 with upperclassmen in Virgil Michel House.

His concluding ministry was serving as chaplain of San Bernardino Hospital, San Bernardino, California, from 2005 to 2019.  

Father Kelly is survived by his sister, Karen Hartneck of Crystal, Minnesota, and three brothers, David of Minneapolis, Jerry of Chandler, Arizona, and William of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and the community of St. John’s Abbey. 

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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