Father Stephen Kelley fell deeply in love with the Church when he was in his early 30s. A friend had challenged him about Church practices and teachings, and he didn’t have an answer to give. So he set out to find answers to those questions.
“It ended up becoming a journey for me,” he said. “I came to understand that the faith makes sense when you understand how it is put together in one tapestry…. It is the avenue to some of the greatest joys that humanity can experience.”
“The more I got into that, the more the vista opened up to what was possible,” Father Kelley said. “Once you get on that slope, you just want to keep going.”
Father Kelley, who grew up in Lebanon, entered St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., from St. Patrick Parish in York when he was 35.
His experiences of living and working on his own before entering seminary are ones that he can bring to his ministry as a priest, he said.
“I’ve dealt with having to live on Ramen Noodles for months. I’ve dealt with the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck, paying rent,” Father Kelley said. “I’ve struggled with finances and I know how difficult things can be…. I have a real sympathy for people who, in their lives, had the bottom fall out.”
Prayer has been critical to his formation, he said. “The demand to become the person that we’re being called to be requires exponentially more prayer as we go on,” said Father Kelley, who has been assigned to serve at St. Joseph Parish in Hanover.
“When we practiced for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for the celebration of the Mass this past year, I got a real strong sense that once you get into ministry, you can’t fake it. You can’t give what you don’t have,” he said. “You have to be the priest. That has to be your existence. From my perspective, all bright and shiny at the beginning, I see a great challenge, and I can only hope through the prayers of many people that I can rise to meet that challenge.”
The support he has received from the people of the diocese has been a blessing, he said, and he is ready to reciprocate that support as a priest.
“I intend to live the vocation that God gave me, to serve his people wherever God puts me,” Father Kelley said. “I trust his will for me, and I will do whatever I can for the people that he puts in my care. It will be wonderful to give back for all that I have been blessed with.”
Excerpted from an article by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness