This digital version of the Bishop Francis C. Kelley Papers is provided by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and hosted online by the Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections.
Loyola University Chicago Special Collections: Bishop Francis C. Kelley Papers
Bishop Francis C. Kelley
Francis Clement Kelley was born on October 23 1870 in Vernon River, Canada. He was the son of John and Mary Kelley. He was educated at St. Dunstan’s College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. At age 22, Kelley was ordained a priest in Detroit, Michigan on August 23, 1893. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, Kelley served as an army chaplain and captain with the Michigan National Guard. Later, he reached the rank of colonel and maintained the position of vice commander general of the Military Order of Foreign Wars for five years. As a pastor in Lapeer, Michigan, Kelley founded the Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States of America in 1905. The society aimed to help struggling priests and parishes in poor and struggling areas of the country. Kelley served as its first President until the 1920s and continued to have various positions in the Society until his death. By the time he stepped down as President, the society had completely transformed the presence of the Catholic Church in the rural countryside. When the society was founded, Kelley began publishing a quarterly magazine called Extension in 1906. As subscriptions rose, he changed it to a monthly issue starting in May 1907. Eventually subscriptions reached three million during his presidency and it continued to be a popular award-winning magazine. While attending the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Kelley saw the Messenger of Peace, a chapel car used by the Baptist Church to witness to areas in the United States that were churchless. This inspired him to buy a chapel car in 1907 which he christened, St. Anthony. The car traveled to non-Catholic areas of the western United States ministering the faith. Eventually more chapel cars were added to the fleet and they traveled the countryside reaching the forgotten areas of the country. Kelley constantly reached out to help the exiled Catholics in the Mexican Revolution. He even built a seminary in Texas primarily for the exiled Mexican clergy. During World War I, Kelley served as a diplomat at the Peace Conference in Paris. While there he represented the bishops of Mexico and sponsored their cause. Furthermore he was influential in settling the Roman Question, a dispute between the Italian State and Papacy. On September 6, 1915 Pope Benedict XIV raised Kelley to the rank of protonotary apostolic which carried the title of right reverend monsignor. That year, he was also considered to be Archbishop of Chicago James Qugiley’s successor, but Bishop George Mundelein was chosen instead. On June 25, 1924, Kelley was appointed bishop of Oklahoma at age 53by Pope Pius XI. He was consecrated in Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago by Cardinal George Mundelein on October 2. The ceremony lasted three hours and was attended by forty bishops and four hundred priests. At the time of his installment as bishop, Kelley was one of the most widely known Catholic leaders in the country, made known through his numerous missions. Kelley performed many duties and encouraged many outreach programs as bishop. He was a strong supporter of the Catholic Church’s integration of the Boy Scouts of America program. In 1932, he was appointed Chairman of the Bishops Catholic Committee on Scouting. In 1939, the Boy Scouts awarded him the Silver Buffalo Award. Throughout his lifetime, Kelley published 16 books, editorials, and many pamphlets. After being a priest for fifty-four years and a bishop for twenty three years, Kelley died of a heart attack at his home on February 1, 1948 at age 77.
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
This digital version of the Bishop Kelley papers is provided by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and hosted by the Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections. Please contact the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City for copyright/permission to publish.