Purcellville pastor killed by falling tree

First slide

Father Michael C. Kelly, 53, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville, died suddenly Dec. 31 after a tree fell on him.

According to published reports, the tree fell on him as he and another driver were trying to remove a large branch that had fallen onto Harmony Church Road in Loudoun County. High winds knocked out power throughout the region last Wednesday.

At the time of the accident, Father Kelly was on his way to the funeral Mass for Father George Griffin, pastor of St. Isidore the Farmer Parish in Orange, who died Dec. 25. The funeral was celebrated at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria.

In a letter to the resident priests and parishioners of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde called Father Kelly "a faithful and zealous priest not only among you but in all his previous assignments as well."

"I join you in the prayer, asking Our Blessed Lord to give him now the blessed reward of his priestly ministry among us these past thirteen years. Your own patron Saint Francis de Sales so beautifully reminds us: 'Life is the time to seek God. Death is the time to find Him. Eternity is the time to possess Him,'" the bishop wrote.

Visitation and a wake were held Jan. 5 at St. Francis de Sales, 37730 St. Francis Ct., Purcellville, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A funeral Mass was offered Jan. 6 at St. Francis de Sales at 11 a.m.

Father Kelly had served as administrator of St. Francis de Sales from June 2006 to June 2008 when he was named pastor.

Born Dec. 15, 1955, in Newport Beach, Calif., one of three sons in a military family, Father Kelly's family settled in Alexandria, where he graduated from Mount Vernon High School.

After serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1973-81, he attended Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg, where he earned a bachelor's in history in 1984. He received his theological education at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., graduating in 1995. His diaconate assignment was at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Woodbridge. He also served as a deacon at Holy Spirit Parish in Sharon Hill, Pa.

Ordained by the late Arlington Bishop John R. Keating May 20, 1995, Father Kelly's first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. James Parish in Falls Church. He then served as parochial vicar of St. Ambrose Parish in Annandale, 1998-2001, and at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Winchester, 2001-06, where he served until his appointment at St. Francis de Sales.

Father Kelly is survived by his father, John Kelly of Colonial Beach, and two brothers, Matthew Kelly of Fredericksburg, and Daniel Kelly of Williamsburg.

In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides services and programs for severely injured members of the U.S. military.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2008