Msgr. James F. Connelly

Msgr. James F. Connelly, 89, pastor emeritus of Stella Maris Parish in Philadelphia, died Dec. 5.

Born in Philadelphia the son of the late James H. Connelly and the late Mary (Devlin) Connelly, he attended St. Joan of Arc School and St. Joseph Preparatory School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

He also attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he obtained a licentiate in theology and a doctorate in church history.

He was ordained in Rome on Dec. 17, 1955 by Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, rector of the North American College.

His first assignment upon his return to Philadelphia was as parochial vicar at St. Gabriel Parish, Norwood, followed by St. John the Baptist, Philadelphia, and faculty of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary where he rose to the position of vice rector.

He also served as secretary to Cardinal John Krol from 1961 to 1968.

In 1976 he was editor of a well-received “History of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia” in which he wrote the section on the Cardinal Krol administration. He also wrote a history of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.


In 1985 he was appointed pastor of Stella Maris Parish in South Philadelphia and pastor emeritus in 2008.

“I was principal of the school the whole time he was here,” said St. Joseph Sister Lawrence Elizabeth. “He loved the school and would come every day. He would ask the children, ‘Who can spell spaghetti?’ or ‘Who can spell monsignor?’ He would say to a little one, ‘You can be my bodyguard today.’”

A true Philadelphian, Msgr. Connelly also loved the Mummers. And the Ferko String Band would practice in the school yard, Sister Lawrence Elizabeth recalls.

Msgr. Charles Sangermano remembers Msgr. Connelly as a faculty member at St. Charles during his own seminary days.

“He preached at my first Mass and he preached at my Silver Jubilee,” said Msgr. Sangermano, who will return the favor by preaching at Msgr. Connelly’s funeral Mass. “He was my seminary professor and he had great charm, great ability and great humility. With all his intellectual background he was a wonderful pastor and his people loved him. He never held himself aloof. He used his charm for the good.”

A viewing for Msgr. Connelly will be held Thursday, Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. at Stella Maris Church, with the funeral Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez following at 10:30.

Concelebrants in addition to Msgr. Sangermano will include Msgr. Paul DiGirolamo, Father Joseph Kelley and Father John DiOrio.

Msgr. Connelly is survived by cousins and many friends.

Interment will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.