First American to serve in that capacity in nearly 50 years
January 15, 2013, WORCESTER, MA -- Most Rev. Robert McManus, Bishop of Worcester, has announced that Msgr. Francis Kelly, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, has been named a Canon of St. Peter Basilica. His installation into the College of Canons will take place on Sunday, January 20 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The appointment comes at a unique time in the life of this priest, who was ordained to the priesthood in Rome 50 years ago this year. His appointment is of historical significance given that there has not been an American serving as a Canon at St. Peter’s Basilica for almost 50 years, since Archbishop Martin O’Connor served as Canon after having been the rector of North American College.
“Being named a Canon of St. Peter Basilica by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is a great honor for Msgr. Kelly, for the Diocese of Worcester, and for the Catholic Church in the United States,” said Bishop McManus. “Monsignor’s various contributions to the universal Church are well recognized and he will continue to serve the Church well in this unique capacity by doing what a priest values most, bringing people closer to God through liturgy and prayer.”
The College of Canons was created in 1053 by Pope St. Leo IX. Currently it is composed of about 25 priests, many of whom served in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, ecclesiastical universities or in offices of the Vatican curia. The canons conduct liturgical services at St. Peter’s Basilica. They can serve as celebrants of the Mass on Sundays and feast days, and also conduct vespers services.
Msgr. Kelly has been the superior at Casa Santa Maria at the North American College in Rome since 2005. The Casa is the residence and house of prayer for American priests engaged in graduate studies.
In addition to his new duties at St. Peter Basilica, Msgr. Kelly will assist with some formation ministry for the 250 seminarians currently enrolled at the North American College. Msgr. Kelly will also continue his service in the government of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem which he began in 2005 as a member of the Grand Magisterium and as Ceremoniere of the Order serving its spiritual and liturgical needs.
A native of Worcester, Msgr. Kelly attended St. Paul Elementary School, St. John High School and the College of the Holy Cross. He studied for the priesthood at St. John Seminary in Brighton and at the North American College in Rome. Following ordination in 1963, he received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. His assignments have included parish ministry and diocesan director of religious education. Beginning in 1979 he served for 12 years as the director of religious education at the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) in Washington, DC, assisting dioceses around the country with their religious education programs.
In 1991 he was named a Prelate of Honor by the Holy See with the title of monsignor. The following year he was appointed to the faculty at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston and was named the rector and president in 1994. He served in that capacity until assuming responsibilities at Casa Santa Maria in Rome.
Msgr. Kelly is the author of three books on religious education and meditation.