A Dominican in Memphis: Father Joseph A. Kelly, O.P. (1827-1885)

A Dominican in Memphis: Father Joseph A. Kelly, O.P. (1827-1885) September 18, 2014

Fr Kelly OPVery Rev. Joseph Augustine Kelly, O.P.— Born in Dublin, Ireland, 1827. Came to America at the age of ten. Reared in Philadelphia, Pa., and Louisville, Ky. Graduate St. Mary’s… [in] Bardstown, Ky. Entered Dominican Order 1843. Ordained July 27, 1850; classical course, St. Rose’s, Springfield, Ky.; St. Joseph’s, Somerset, Ohio, after ordination; 1854 was elected President of college; 1858 was elected Provincial of Dominican Fathers in eastern states, holding office until 1862. In spring, 1863, was appointed Pastor of St. Peter’s Church, Memphis. In summer of 1863, to November 1865, was administrator of Diocese of Nashville, and built first Catholic orphanage in State Capitol. Frequently named for an Episcopal See, he resolutely declined honors. Lived and worked in Memphis from 1868 until his death, August 7, 1885. His zealous ministrations to charity, devotion to duty, and heroic courage during plagues of cholera and yellow fever, have made his name a household word among the Catholics and non-Catholics of Memphis. For eighteen years he had charge of the Catholic Orphanage of the Bluff City, which he founded. No orphan child of whatever creed, appealed to him in vain. After the fever of 1878, he sent an appeal through the land in behalf of the many little ones bereft. After immediate wants were supplied, he purchased the grounds of the present Orphanage, which is a monument to his unselfish devotion. He has justly been called “Father of the Orphans.” Few citizens of any state, deserve or have gained a more permanent place in the affections of her people than the Dominican priest, Rev. Joseph Augustine Kelly, whose humble grave on Chapel Hillside, in Calvary, marks the resting spot of one of America’s greatest men.

The Book of Three States: Notable Men of Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee (Memphis: Commercial Appeal Publishing Co., 1914), 223.

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