An ordination in ‘Year for Priests’

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The Year for Priests comes to an end June 19. When Pope Benedict XVI announced the yearlong celebration, he also declared St. John Vianney to be the universal patron of priests.

It was the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé d'Ars, or "pastor of Ars," and the pope said that because of the loving care St. John Vianney showed to his parishioners, he should be the model for all Catholic priests.

"(St. John Vianney is) a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock," said the pope.

St. John Vianney is an inspiration to Deacon Michael (Mick) Kelly, who will profess his final vows to the priesthood before Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde June 12.

"He is the model of priesthood that God has raised up to help us to know how to live now," said Deacon Kelly.

He arrives at his ordination just seven days before the end of the jubilee year and he appreciates the timing.

"It's a great moment to be formed," he said. "You know who Jesus is. You followed Him your whole life."

Deacon Kelly was born in Berkley, Calif., but spent most of his early life in Allentown, Pa.

He graduated from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio with a bachelor's in biology and a master's in philosophy.

After serving several years as a youth minister, he realized his calling to the priesthood. Deacon Kelly had family in the Washington, D.C., area and began his discernment in the Arlington Diocese. He was assigned to the seminary at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Md., by Bishop Loverde.

His last year before ordination was spent as a transitional deacon at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria.

One of his most memorable jobs as deacon was helping minister to patients at INOVA Alexandria Hospital.

"Every Friday I'd go to Alexandra Hospital with Father (Tony) Killian or Father (Terry) Cramer (to minister to the sick.)," Deacon Kelly said.

He wants to continue hospital work after his ordination, "anointing the sick and last rites."

But he wants to be a complete priest.

"I want to baptize babies - that would be my favorite thing to do," he said. "I want to do the whole gamut, hearing confessions and saying Mass."

One of the most meaningful events during Deacon Kelly's time in the seminary was attending a Grace of Ars retreat conducted by Father Frederick Miller, associate professor of systematic theology at Mount St. Mary's. The retreat presented the Church's doctrine on the priesthood through the context of St. John Vianney.

The retreat showed me that I must be conformed to Jesus' identity as priest and have my priesthood (formed) by His idea of priesthood. Not the worlds or even what some people think the priesthood should be, but what the Church has shown and what Christ has revealed," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010