Fr. O’Kielty marks 55 years of priestly service

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Father Seamus (James) P. O'Kielty was born in County Mayo, Ireland, the eighth child of 10. He studied in seminaries in England, Belgium, Germany and Scotland and was ordained a priest in 1954.

He spent the next 11 years as a missionary in Tanganyika/Burundi. In 1965 he came to the U.S. and taught high school in the Diocese of Paterson, N.J. In 1966 he served in the missions in Bolivia where he became temporary chaplain to the Bolivian army when Che Guevara was in power. While there, he created a catechetical program to evangelize to the Aymara Indians by training more than 100 catechists despite government opposition.

Father O'Kielty later attended Farleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J., where he earned a master's in education and became certified by the state as an accredited teacher of German, French and Spanish. He earned a master's in linguistics at New York University, and became a doctoral candidate.

In 1974 he returned to Burundi and became a parish pastor, replacing Hutu priests who had been massacred. In 1979 he was inducted as a Navy chaplain. He was deployed to Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco and near Cuba. He qualified as expert marksman with pistol and M16. He did Jungle Fighting Training and was awarded Sea Service Deployment medals, and the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. He later retired in 1995.

Since then he was adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickenson University's School of Education, spent three months at the Knock Shrine in Ireland and returned to the Paterson Diocese where he assisted at local parishes. He currently works as a chaplain at Christendom College in Front Royal. He is working toward a doctorate from Catholic University (CUA).

Tom McFadden, the director of admissions at Christendom College said Father O'Kielty has added much to the campus over the years.

"He is such a wonderful example of a priest," McFadden said. "And the most amazing thing about him is that, at 78 years old, he is currently in the process of earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from CUA, showing that the love of learning is a lifelong adventure."

Editor's Note: Fr. O'Kielty was inadvertently left off the list of priest jubilarians provided by the Chancery, so he was not included in the article "Priests celebrate anniversaries" which appeared in the May 7 issue of the Catholic Herald.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009