KELLY, Michael (1850-1940)


KELLY, Michael (1850-1940)
Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney
son of a master mariner, was born at Waterford, Ireland, on 13 February 1850. Educated for the priesthood at St Peter's College, Wexford, and at Rome, he was ordained in 1872. He formed a house of missions in Ireland, to give assistance to the parochial clergy, and during the next 20 years gained a wide experience in parish administration and missionary work. In 1891 he was made vice-rector of the Irish College at Rome, and three years later became rector and head of the college. In this position he frequently met visiting clergy from Australia. In 1901 Cardinal Moran (q.v.) applied for a coadjutor and suggested that Kelly might be given that position. He was consecrated coadjutor-archbishop of Sydney on 20 July 1901, arrived in Australia in the following November, and made his residence at St Benedict's, Sydney. He succeeded Moran on 16 August 1911, and carried on the work of the diocese with great energy. He never allowed politics to interfere with his spiritual duties, though he never ceased to urge the claims of his church for an educational grant. But, however strongly he felt the justice of his claims, he would not allow his non-success in this direction to relax his efforts to have essential things done. If the government would not give them money for their schools they must raise it themselves, and in the 39 years that followed it was estimated that £12,000,000 was spent in the see on scholastic and church properties. St Mary's cathedral at Sydney, one of the finest Gothic buildings of its time, was completed in 1928, and Kelly's statue stands with Moran's at the main portal. He had been appointed assistant at the Pontifical Throne and count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1926, and after his return from the Eucharistic Congress at Dublin in 1932 the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination as priest was commemorated. Keeping his mind perfectly until the end, he died at Sydney in his ninety-first year on 8 March 1940.
Kelly had a great capacity for work and no obstacle would daunt him. The influence of his natural piety and charity was felt throughout and beyond his own church, and though his beliefs were fervent he would say nothing that could wound the feelings of members of other sects. His material monuments were the churches and schools built in his time, but the atmosphere of good will towards men that he also created was of the greatest value.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 1940; The Advocate, Melbourne. 14 March 1940.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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