Some 40 years have passed since Monsignor Greg Kelly began his journey as a seminarian at Holy Trinity seminary. After serving as a priest for nearly 34 years, Msgr. Kelly has been named bishop-elect of the Diocese of Dallas.
It has been a journey of answering often unexpected calls from God, he said, and one inspired by his devotions to Mary and to a phrase from a favorite passage in the Gospel of Matthew: “Take Courage.”
“This verse is also connected, in my mind, in some ways, to the Annunciation, because it was a great act of courage for Mary to say ‘yes.’ The angel Gabriel also said to Mary, ‘do not be afraid,’ ” Bishop-elect Kelly said in a recent interview.
Bishop-elect Kelly was born in Le Mars, Iowa, but grew up in Colorado Springs, CO where he attended St. Mary’s High School. In his junior year of college at Colorado State University, he transferred to Holy Trinity Seminary where he stayed for six years until his ordination in 1982.
As a young man, he had no intention of remaining in the Diocese of Dallas, but after 40 years, “I guess some things changed,” he joked.
Bishop-elect Kelly’s life stresses the importance of being open to God’s call.
Ten years of his calling, from 1986 to 1996, included service to the University of Dallas students as chaplain.
He helped countless students navigate the challenges of college life and faith, a time that was special to him.
“I loved the daily interactions with students,” Bishop-elect Kelly said. “[Administering] the sacraments to people who are trying to own their own faith or figuring out what they want to do with their life or coming to grips with their own sinfulness and being there to accompany them was a very rich experience. Being a part of the university life and getting to know teachers and staff in a different way as a peer was unique.”
He joked that returning to UD was intimidating, but comical.
“I found it intimidating when I was celebrating Mass and teachers and priests who taught me in theology were sitting in the audience,” Bishop-elect Kelly said. “I imagined them saying, ‘didn’t you learn anything?’ ”
Clearly, he did. His time at UD was deeply formative in his understanding of his Catholic faith, he said.
“One very valuable thing I always found fascinating here at UD was taking the long view,” Bishop-elect Kelly said. “Much of my formation prior to coming here was an apologetic defense of the Catholic Church against Protestant objections, but here I came into touch with the 1600 years that went before [the Reformation].”
And like so many of us at UD, Kelly cherished the time he spent in Rome, at the Due Santi campus, in the spring of 1993.
“I remember celebrating Mass in the crypt and the buses got delayed and we got to stay a lot longer since they try to shut everything down when the tourists come,” Bishop-elect Kelly said. “I celebrated Mass in the catacombs. I also got to meet Pope John Paul II, who spoke to me personally and said, ‘you are a young man.’ I treasure those words more and more the older I get.”
Some books in the Core, he said, have really stuck with him over the years.
“I read the Confessions of St. Augustine. It was also fascinating to read the post apostolic fathers, like Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch,” Bishop-elect Kelly said.
Bishop-elect Kelly offered this advice to all UD students, from those in Lit Trad I struggling through the Iliad to those in Philosophy of Being stumbling through Kant.
“Be willing to listen to what a lot of different authors said on their own terms before you try to argue against it,” Bishop-elect Kelly said. “Be willing to engage it.”
Bishop-Elect Kelly is still on the UD Board of Trustees and hopes to return to UD after his ordination to celebrate Mass.
Bishop-Elect Kelly will be ordained on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas at 2 p.m.