Former Dungannon priest ‘was a deeply pastoral man’

The late Very Rev. Father Terence Kelly
The late Very Rev. Father Terence Kelly

Tributes have been paid to former Dungannon Curate Father Terence Kelly following his death last week.

The Very Rev. Father Terence Kelly, 79, was laid to rest on Wednesday, January 8 following requiem mass in St Colmcille’s Church, Knockagoney.

Father Kelly was Curate in Dungannon Parish from 1966-1988, before moving to Tandragee in 1988 where he was Parish Priest for six years.

From there he moved to Ballinderry Parish where he was Parish Priest for 14 years until his retirement in 2008 when he became Pastor Emeritus residing in Ballinderry, before he moved to Collegelands Private Nursing Home, where he passed away on January 6.

He was the beloved brother of Sr Joanne , May Doherty, the late James and the late Brian.

Fr. Kelly studied in his youth at St Patrick’s College, Armagh before moving on to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he completed his studies to become a priest and was ordained in June 1959.

Requiem mass for Father Kelly was celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin who described him as “a deeply pastoral man with great compassion for his people.”

During his homily, Archbishop Eamon told the congregation Fr Terence Kelly was “a faithful priest” who he greatly admired for his dedication to the priesthood.

He said: “Almost 55 years of ministry. I haven’t even got half that under my belt! I can only stand back in admiration at Fr Terry’s dedication and express great gratitude to God from the people, priests and bishops of the Archdiocese for his tremendous generosity.

“Over those 55 years he ministered through the darkest and most harrowing days of the troubles; he suffered generally from poor health and for medical reasons was unable to drive since October 1978; and he lived through very troublesome and shameful times for the Church. But he had three characteristics which I believe ‘anchored’ his priesthood in its solid foundations.

“The first anchor for Fr Terry’s priesthood was his love for the Eucharist. His daily Mass provided him with sustenance and nourishment which in turn enabled him to feed the spiritual needs of his people.

“His love for the Eucharist was evident when celebrated his Golden Jubilee Mass back in 2009 and when he was presented with a beautiful chalice to mark the occasion, he chose to give it to this Church of St Colmcille in Knockaconey, the parish where he had made his first Holy Communion nearly seventy years previously. You might think being unable to drive would be a handicap or an excuse even, but Fr Terry turned it into a pastoral advantage – he was always out walking, meeting people and through the kindness and support of many friends and parishioners giving him lifts everywhere, he was able to remain completely faithful to his priestly duties.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin also spoke of Father Kelly’s love for his family and also his love of sport during his requiem mass.

He said: “He loved to come home on a Sunday even after his parents and brothers Brian and James died, he developed a great affection for Patsy and his nieces and nephews – as they did for him. Fr Terry would go for walks and tell them stories and listen to them as they grew up.

“He enjoyed a simple life with his family, friends, dogs and favourite TV programmes. I believe he was a great man for Sport – it’s not that common that someone could enjoy a great football game and still be a fan of the cricket. Although a faithful Armagh supporter – he cried tears of joy when Armagh beat Kerry – he had no problem following and encouraging his parish clubs – on one occasion he demanded premium seats at Croke Park as the Parish Priest of Ballinderry!

“Pope Francis said a priest should be like a shepherd amongst his flock, getting to know ‘the smell of his sheep’. Well, I think that characterised Fr Terry’s priestly ministry.”