Bishop Kelly


Patrick Joseph Kelly was born in Bearnacraugh in Aughrim on 31st August 1894. He received his early education in AughrimPrimary School and at the ‘PinesCollege’ Ballinasloe.

He helped his parents on their farm for some years and during this time he worked with his uncle building the vestry at GlannChurch. This experience was put to good use in later years in constructing schools and churches in Africa.

He was received into the society of African Missions on 1st November 1918 and was ordinated a priest on 29th June 1921 by Bishop Thomas Broderick vicar apostolic of Western Nigeria. After ordination, Patrick Kelly was assigned to the Vicariate of Western Nigeria and was sent to occupy the outstation of Eku where he was sent to remain until 1926. In 1926 while at home on leave in Ireland and in poor health he was appointed to teach moral theology at the province’s seminary in Dromantine, Co. Down. In October 1926 he returned to Western Nigeria to take up the post of ‘Visitor’, that is, superior of all the S.M.A. Confreres in the vicariate of Western Nigeria. He was nominated to succeed Bishop Taylor in 1939 and having returned home on leave, was consecrated bishop on 2nd June 1940 in St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe. Because of the war-time difficulties he could only return to Nigeria in 1941.

By 1964, the year of the silver jubilee of his consecration, Bishop Kelly had established some thirty five secondary schools fed by a complex of some five hundred and eighty two primary schools. Patrick Kelly remained as bishop of Benin City from 1950 until his retirement on the 5th July 1973. Throughout his fifty years in Nigeria, he worked zealously for the salvation of souls. He baptized innumerable infants in danger of death. He stopped in every village he passed through to enquire about sick people and he instructed and baptized willingly, dying pagans.

He organized catechumen classes all over the vast diocese. During his regular tours he would stay for weeks in each parish and spend many hours each day sitting under the shade of a tree testing and retesting candidates.

During his mission years Bishop Kelly spent his holidays at the family home at Tristane, Aughrim and his daily celebration of mass was attended by a large number of friends and neighbours. On his departure back to Africa “the Farewell Mass” was usually attended by 70-80 people.

On his retirement in 1973, Bishop Kelly lived in the S.M.A. House in Wilton, Cork. During the summer months he visited his relations in Aughrim and his sister, Kathleen Cunnane, in PerssePark, Ballinasloe. He made a daily visit to either St. Catherine’s Church, Aughrim or St. Augustine’s Church, Clontuskert to celebrate Holy Hour and attended Mass, as well as celebrating his own Mass. He has two nephews in the priesthood, Fr. Stephen Kelly in New York and Fr. Anthony Kelly S.M.A. in the missions in Zambia.

Bishop Kelly died in 18th August 1992 at the age of 97. His funeral in Wilton, Cork was attended by a large number of friends and neighbours fro Aughrim, Clontuskert and surrounding areas.

He was best described as a man who literally prayed all day.


Source:  Social History of Aughrim