In Remembrance

Kelly, Raymond

February 25, 2003
Easthampton, Long Island.
Raymond F. Kelly, a retired Bishop of the American Catholic Church , passed from this earth on February 25, 2003. Bishop Kelly resided in Easthampton, Long Island. He is survived by his former wife, Nordell, and their two grown children, Nathaniel Christopher Kelly and Nina Kelly.

Bishop Kelly had been ordained a priest by the Roman Catholic Church in 1958 at Maryknoll, New York, the center for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of the USA. As part of his priestly training, Kelly did extensive study of the emerging Catholic Lay Apostolate and the Worker Priest Movement in Europe. In his ministry as a Maryknoll priests, Kelly worked in Tanzania from 1958 to 1963. He mainly served as a pastoral associate in rural areas of Tanzania. From 1963 to 1968 Kelly was assigned to the United Nations where he was involved with the UN affiliated organization, Pax Romana, on Peace and Justice issues.

In 1968 Kelly married and left the Maryknoll Society. In 1973 Kelly was present at the founding of the Fellowship of Christian Ministries (FCM) at Mount Manresa in Staten Island, New York. Kelly became active in this organization as well as several other Catholic reform groups such as CORPUS and another group that he helped to found, Maryknoll-in-Diaspora. In August of 1977, Maryknoll-in-Diaspora was established after a meeting at LaGuardia Airport of representatives from throughout the USA. Kelly served as the initial editor of the newsletter for Maryknoll-in-Diaspora and a member of the liaison team that entered into dialogue with the Maryknoll Fathers General Council about possible methods of collaboration between present and former members of the Maryknoll Society. Out of this dialogue the Maryknoll Society established a Joint Committee of present and former members and established an organ of communication called Interchange that has continued to serve present and former members of the Maryknoll Society for over 20 years. Kelly remained active with the extended Maryknoll family for the rest of his life.

In 1984 Kelly was instrumental in establishing the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of America with Bishop Peter Brennan, Rocco Caporale and Joseph Fradale. Kelly was a visionary Church reformer who saw the need for new ecclesial structures that incorporated the gifts of married priests, women and lay Catholics. He was inspired by the example of Pope John XXIII to make the Church more relevant to the needs of the contemporary world. Kelly was also a member of the International Society of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul, an apostolic association of married Catholic priests. Kelly sought to assist the Assyrian Christian Kurds in northern Iraq during the Gulf War through his affiliation with this Society of married Catholic priests.

During the decades of the 1980s and 1990s Kelly was involved with many of the progressive reform groups in the Catholic Church as well as many of his Maryknoll-in-Dispora colleagues in planning for a variety of projects that would serve the needs of those who had left official clerical ministry. He had a vision of establishing a network of reform minded people who would help him establish a variety of services for those who had left the clerical ministry. These services included career transition counseling, placement in international service projects and opportunities for ecumenical outreach to other Christian churches and Peace and Justice organizations. Kelly was particularly interested and involved in the Middle East Peace Dialogue and spent much of his time advocating for this social justice issue.

Approximately five years ago, Kelly was consecrated a Bishop in the American Catholic Church at a Lutheran Church on Long Island. He was consecrated by Archbishop Robert Allmen and one of the co-consecrators was Bishop Peter Brennan. Bishop Kelly was committed to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate within the American Catholic Church. He lived to see his dream fulfilled within the American Catholic Church in that they do have both women priests and bishops. Kelly worked assiduously to expand his reform minded ministry until his health began to fail a few years ago. He continued to keep in touch with friends and colleagues until the time of his death. He will be remembered as a prophetic Church leader and social reformer who inspired many others to follow their dream of a renewed and relevant Church community. MAY HE REST IN PEACE!



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