Do you know anyone that has worked 30 years for the same organization? Definitely a rarity.
How about 40 years? Practically unheard of.
But even if you do, they’re not even close to Kathy Kelley, who after her retirement Sept. 7, worked for more than 53 years for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In fact, as a secretary and trusted confidant with the Office of Catholic Education, Archbishops, auxiliary bishops and countless colleagues over those years, it’s the only job she’s had.
Try topping that.
Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Kathy’s parents George and Josephine Carroll of Our Lady of Ransom Parish had already welcomed a girl, Patricia, into their family. Convinced that a boy was next, George was surprised when he received a call at his post with the Philadelphia Fire Department from a doctor at the hospital.
“How’s my son?” George asked. “You have twin girls,” the doctor replied.
“Mom had three children in 13 months,” Kathy said. “And she was in her 40s.”
After attending Our Lady of Ransom School, like so many other young women in the Northeast, Kathy went to Saint Hubert Catholic High School for Girls.
Before graduation her strong test scores led to employment offers from Bell of Pennsylvania, PNC Bank, and Acme Supermarkets. But because a young resident priest at Our Lady of Ransom, Father Francis Meehan, encouraged her she looked into a secretarial position with OCE. She interviewed for the job, and got an offer, which she accepted.
Graduation from Saint Hubert’s was on June 7, 1969. After returning from senior week at the New Jersey shore, Kathy went off to work for her first day on June 15.
“Since then, it’s been history,” she said.
But it started with a speed bump. That first day would turn out to be the first and only day she was ever late for work.
“I had taken the El (the Market-Frankford Elevated train) and I was unfamiliar with it and the streets in center city. I got turned around, and was late for work!” she said.
She enjoyed the work of answering phones, duplicating documents and other tasks that took place within the office’s confines of two adjoining three-story row houses in center city Philadelphia, across the street from John W. Hallahan High School for Girls.
At that time the archdiocesan chancery offices were located in a short strip of three row houses beside the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul, and Kelley quickly became a trusted person to ferry documents the two blocks from OCE’s offices to the chancery.
By August 1971, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center opened on 17th Street and brought the offices under one roof. That is where Kathy’s career and personal life took off.
In 1974 a young Dennis Kelley began working as a staff accountant for OCE, and naturally he and Kathy met in their sixth floor offices and hit it off.
Their first date was at a wedding of mutual friends, and by Christmastime of 1976 he had proposed marriage, and she accepted.
Given their employment and many priest friends, 30 priests attended their wedding at Our Lady of Ransom Church on November 5, 1977.
Kathy’s reputation as a talented, organized and diligent person led to her invitation to work on the planning for the installation of the incoming archbishop of Philadelphia in 1988, who would later become Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
She would go on to serve as a secretary with other staff in his office.
In that role she routinely brought documents and correspondence to Cardinal John Krol living in retirement at the residence on City Line Avenue.
“I really enjoyed going to the residence and got to talk in a friendly relationship with Cardinal Krol,” Kathy said.
In 2004 she was hired as the late Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden’s secretary until 2010, when he was named bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese. At that time she began serving as secretary to Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fitzgerald and stayed at that post through his retirement earlier this year.
As she looks back on her career, which in 2019 included receiving a papal honor as a Dame in the Order of St. Sylvester, it is her coworkers that stand out the most.
The bishops she worked with “all had different personalities, but all were kind and prayerful people,” Kathy said. “They were very intelligent and dedicated. You got used to their styles; they were good people.”
In particular, “Bishop McFadden was such a people-person, and so well-respected,” she said.
“It’s the people I’m going to miss. Everyone was always willing to help you. It was like a second family. I’ve been blessed.”
As in any work there were challenges along the way, but “the good days outnumbered the bad,” she said.
In retirement she plans to spend time at the shore, perhaps travel a bit, and spend time visiting with her sister Eileen.
She and Dennis will remain active at their longtime parish, Saint John the Baptist in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. She offers praise for her pastor, Msgr. Kevin Lawrence, for rejuvenating the parish and building community.
Her retirement date, Sept. 7, would have been the 88th wedding anniversary of her parents. “Hopefully, they’re proud of me,” she said.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103