Words Of Remembrance For Brother James Kelly, FSC
By Brother Jerome Sullivan, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, New Jersey
June 5, 2019
A warm welcome this evening to all who came to say good-bye and honor the life of Brother Aloysius James Kelly also known to his family as Daniel Patrick Kelly.
I’m sure we all agree that we lost a great human being, a great Christian Brother who was to celebrate his 70th anniversary this summer, a community Director and school leader, a master teacher, a true friend and beneath it all, a deeply spiritual person. In the gospel we read the story of Nathanael. When Jesus saw Nathanial approaching him he said, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” Jesus probably had a similar reaction when he saw Jimmy Kelly approaching a few days ago, “Behold a Christian Brother from the South Bronx and Staten Island in whom there is no guile”. No guile, no deceit, no waffling, no fake news … just straight answers, goodness, and sincerity mixed in with plenty of Kelly good humor. Besides directing schools and leading Brothers’ communities, his interests and skills were many: photography, fishing, tennis, basketball, card playing, doing the NY Times crossword puzzles, reading, cooking, and traveling. His friends were countless. As Jimmy Kelly was approaching Jesus, St. La Salle was probably standing by proudly reminding Jesus, “He’s one of our best”.
Jimmy’s roots go back to the town of Donegal where his parents were born. His father, Frank, was in the Garda, the Irish police. His father and his mother, Margaret, were married in New York City and moved to St. Jerome’s parish in the South Bronx. Almost every summer his parents would take himself and his brother, Tom, back to visit the Kellys in Donegal. He frequently spoke of his close and loving bond with the family in Ireland. Jimmy and his brother Tom went to St. Jerome’s School and grew up with neighborhood friends like Kevin Hargadon, Tommy Moran, Andy O’Gara, John and Pete McAndrews, Joe Buckley, and Tommy Wilkenson. Like Jimmy and his brother, Tom, all became Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers were well known and appreciated in St. Jerome’s.
Tom went to the Juniorate in Barrytown after graduating from St. Jerome’s but Jimmy had to wait a year before the Superiors would allow him join his brother. Jimmy spent his Freshman year at La Salle Academy, 2nd Street, where he had the Brothers and enjoyed Luke Salm as one of his teachers. In 1946 he went off to Barrytown to join his brother, Tom. Jimmy idolized his brother and when Tom died of a sudden heart attack at age fifty-five at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers, Jimmy was crushed but never showed it.
Jimmy was an excellent student and athlete in high school and college. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Catholic University and his Master’s in Math from Manhattan.
IN 1954 Jimmy began his long teaching career with the 4th and 5th graders at Ascension Grade School in NYC. The Superiors recognized his talents: at twenty-nine he was put in charge of the Day Juniorate in NYC. Brother Charles O’Connell remembers him fondly. Charlie writes: “A teacher must have remarkable magic for a former student to remember the teacher’s actual words nearly six decades later. This quality surely explains why so many of Jim’s former students rate him as “the best they ever had. The first time I ever met Jim in a class, he started off by asking the class who could spell Aloysius, his religious name. Right away I volunteered and gave it a try. Got it wrong. Jim’s special touch was that you felt you wanted to keep volunteering even after that.”
Jim always called the students “men.” Once as we, day juniors, prepared for a weekend in Barrytown, he said “Men, hurry up when you take your showers. You have twenty others waiting in line for you to finish.” I never forgot that brief, important, lesson that applied to much more than showers.”
Jim made math enjoyable. He made fourteen year olds look forward to reading Shakespeare. He was the best. His magic was his own.
A few years later Jimmy was assigned as the first Principal and Director of the newly opened Paramus Catholic High School. After his successful assignment at Paramus, he became the Director of a large community at La Salle Academy. His good friend, Brother Kevin Gilhooly, was Principal, and I was Vice Principal. Those were a fun few years. Jimmy followed La Salle Academy in 1979 by becoming the first Director of the newly opened De La Salle Hall. He did a fine job but as the Irish would say, “It wasn’t his cup of tea”. Jimmy spent a few years at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers after his brother Tom died so he could be closer to his mother. Jimmy’s longest assignment was thirty-two years at St. Peter’s Boys High school in Staten Island where he was Director, teacher, Principal and then President. Jimmy loved St. Peter’s. He was the leader who led by example.
Over 300 years ago, our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle, posed this question to his first Brothers: “Do you have such faith that it is able to touch the hearts of your students and to inspire them with the Christian spirit?” De La Salle went on to say: “This is the greatest miracle you could perform, and the one that God asks of you, since this is the purpose of your work.” Powerful words.
How did Jimmy relate so well with people? A few examples:
Some of you may remember the day Jimmy went out to take photos of the opening game of the St. Peter’s football team. He positioned himself on the other side of the large banner ready to take an action shot of the team breaking through the banner and running full speed onto the football field. Unfortunately, the football players didn’t know that Jimmy was on the other side of the banner. They broke through the banner and ran full speed into him. He wound up in the hospital. That day Jimmy went into the record books as the first person sacked on the St. Peter’s football field. One team member wrote, “After knocking down Brother James, I felt horrible because I honestly thought I killed the President of the school. When I visited him in the hospital with my parents, he simply laughed and said, “I’m fine.” Another player remarked, “I thought he’d never take another photo of the football team or even care if we won or lost but he still liked us.” Jimmy was a master teacher who taught physics, chemistry, and every level of math. A St. Peter’s student wrote, “Brother James is a selfless man and an incredible teacher. He is there any time of the day to listen to us and help us.” Then there is the story of the teacher that Jimmy Kelly had to let go because of declining enrollment. The tables were turned and the teacher wound up consoling Jimmy Kelly because Jimmy felt so badly.
How did Jimmy Kelly relate so well with people? He loved them and respected them and mixed it all with his Kelly charm.
In 2017, after two years working in the library and taking photos of school events at CBA, Lincroft, Jimmy moved to De La Salle Hall. He gave up his many hobbies, but he showed us all how to grow old gracefully. He was present at all activities and never missed his chapel exercises with the Brothers. He enjoyed reading mysteries and took special delight in meeting and greeting visitors to De La Salle Hall. Towards the end he had some memory issues but never lost his sense of humor.
This is probably a good time to thank Brother Bud, the Brothers, the Administration, the nurses, the support staff, the aides and the kitchen and cleaning staff at De La Salle Hall for their loving care of Jimmy Kelly. He appreciated each and every one of you and I’m sure you appreciated him.
Our Institute has been blessed because Jimmy Kelly walked among us. St. La Salle wrote in his Meditations, “What a joy a Brother of the Christian schools will have when he sees a great number of his students in possession of eternal happiness:
Well, they were all waiting at the Golden Gate for Jimmy a few days ago – students and teachers, the Kellys of Donegal and New York, his parents, Frank and Margaret, his brother, Brother Tom, all the Christian Brothers and a multitude of family and friends.
He’s home now. He’s at peace.
What lessons can we learn from Brother Aloysius James Kelly’s 88 years of life? These are the lessons he taught us: to live in the presence of God … to love and respect your neighbor … to be honest and work hard … to be joyful … and to grow old with dignity and grace.
Jimmy, thank you for being such a wonderful teacher and friend to all of us.
Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother James Kelly, FSC
Born Daniel Patrick Kelly on 22 May 1931
Entered the Barrytown NY Juniorate on 5 September 1946
Entered the Barrytown NY Novitiate on 25 June 1949
Received the Religious Habit and the Name Brother Aloysius James on 7 September 1949
Pronounced Perpetual Vows at Barrytown NY on 2 September 1956
Died at De La Salle Hall in Lincroft NJ on 2 June 2019
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Viewing – 5.00pm to 7.00pm
Mass of Christian Burial – 7.00pm
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road · Lincroft NJ 07738
Thursday, 6 June 2019
Burial – 11.00am
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
10 West Stevens Avenue · Hawthorne NY 10532
Brother James passed away peacefully early Sunday morning.
The District of Eastern North America remembers Brother James with memorial liturgies according to the tradition of the Institute. Through their prayers, communities and individuals entrust Brother James to God’s loving care.
May he rest in peace.
New York NY
New York NY
Saint Bernard’s Day Juniorate
Paramus Catholic High School
New York NY
La Salle Academy
Santa Fe NM
Sangre de Cristo: renewal (1st session)
De La Salle Hall
Staten Island NY
Saint Peter’s Boys High School
Sacred Heart High School
Staten Island NY
Saint Peter’s Boys High School
Christian Brothers Academy: retired
De La Salle Hall: resident