The young Greg Kelly did not always dream of attending seminary. Throughout high school, he just wanted to attend college and have a family like everyone else did.
Nevertheless, Kelly, auxiliary bishop and vicar general of Dallas, attended Holy Trinity Seminary before he became chaplain at the University of Dallas, then pastor at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney. He is now vicar for the diocese.
“Going to seminary seemed like a weird thing to do,” Kelly said. “But I just felt like I was resisting something [not going]. It just nagged at me, so finally I felt like I had to give [seminary] a try.”
He eventually decided to attend Holy Trinity Seminary and earned his master’s degree in Divinity in 1982 before being ordained a diocesan priest of Dallas that same year.
“I liked the way [Holy Trinity] was organized,” Kelly said. “When I got here, I felt at peace walking through the doors of the seminary. I loved the University of Dallas. The quality of the classes, the teachers — it was just very engaging intellectually.”
Kelly was inspired by several priests over the years, but he was especially influenced by a priest who served at a parish he attended throughout elementary school.
Working as an altar server, he saw this priest live his faith up close, especially in how he treated others.
“[He was] just this very kind and generous person, and I wanted to be like him,” Kelly said. “He never yelled at the altar boys, he would just explain things to us, and if it seemed like we didn’t get it, he would just explain it to us again. He was just kind to everybody. … That left an impression on me early on.”
Brought up in a religious and involved family, he was encouraged to use his gifts to help others.
Now, Kelly does just that.
As general vicar, he engages in a wide assortment of duties, especially helping the bishop in ministries, working with the diocesan staff, helping with confirmations and taking part in certain committees.
“I see my principle goal now as helping Bishop [Edward] Burns become familiar with the diocese,” Kelly said. “He came from Alaska and doesn’t really know much about the diocese of Dallas, so I want to help him become as familiar as possible with the diocese, and get to know people in the diocese, how things are run here and to help in whatever way I can.”
The diocesan auxiliary bishop carries similar duties as the vicar, assisting the bishop as necessary and acting as a sort of “assistant” to the bishop.
Kelly was alerted of the fact that Pope Francis had chosen him to serve in this position while at a conference a few days before it was publicly announced in December of 2015.
“If that’s what Pope Francis wants me to do, then I guess that’s what I’ll do,” Kelly said when he received the call.
Because of the conference, he was able to have a few days to quietly reflect on this news, for which he was appreciative.
He was officially ordained on Feb. 11, 2016, just before what he considers to have been a “tumultuous year” in which the diocese experienced growth and changes, including former Bishop Kevin Farrell leaving the diocese to serve as a cardinal.
As Farrell left, Kelly took the position of apostolic administrator until Burns took his place, and he could again serve as auxiliary bishop.
“I had the responsibility of keeping things moving in the direction they were already moving,” Kelly said. “I didn’t start anything new that would tie the hands of the new bishop. It was basically to keep things moving as they were and to prepare the new bishop to take over.”
But despite not actively initiating changes, Kelly feels that the diocese has continued to change during his time as an auxiliary.
“I think that the diocese of Dallas is a very exciting place right now,” Kelly said. “There are a lot of good things that have happened in the diocese of Dallas with Cardinal Ferrell. There’s a lot of growth and vitality. I just feel happy to be a part of it.”
Before working directly in the diocese, Kelly worked at UD as chaplain. Denise Phillips, executive director of Mission and Ministry, remembers him both during his time at the university and before when she engaged in volunteer activities with him.
“He had a wonderful ability to remember the names of students,” Phillips said. “He was that engaged from one person to another. The students loved him. His philosophy was making time for and listening to students. There was always time, even when there wasn’t. He is very generous of heart, and he loved being here at the university.”
Despite still working with a community of people in the diocese, Kelly notes that there are significant differences in the community life between working at the university and working directly in the diocese as a parish priest.
“One of the things I miss from having a parish is just having an ongoing community, seeing them come every week and knowing their faces,” Kelly said. “To be able to celebrate the Eucharist with the community week after week; to get to know their joys and their struggles, celebrate baptisms and First Communions, and funerals; [and] to sense the beauty of Christ reflected in His creations is a profound, moving thing,” Kelly said.