Deacon Aaron Kelly pledges his obedience to Bishop Salvatore R. Matano and his successors during the priestly ordination Mass July 2 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. (Photo via courier by Jeff Witherow)
ROCHESTER — A vocational call that first surfaced in second grade, and which never waned, has now been fully answered by Father Aaron Kelly.
Father Kelly’s 20-year continuation of the priesthood came true on the morning of July 2, when Bishop Salvatore R. Matano ordained him at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
‘Incredible’ is how Fr Kelly described his feelings as he exchanged hugs and handshakes and blessed a long line of well-wishers for about an hour after the ordination mass ended. He added that the day was everything he had hoped for – and more.
Even as a child, Father Kelly wanted to be a priest
Father Kelly’s happiness was shared by many family members, friends, clergy and fellow Catholics, including his parents, Jeffrey and Kimberly.
“I feel good,” added his father. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
“I’m thrilled,” her mother said.
Father Kelly’s parents recalled their son showed an unusual interest in the priesthood as a young child, saying he enjoyed ‘playing mass’ with his sisters, Abigail and Emma. Over the years, however, it became clear to them that he was not just going through a childhood phase.
“It’s just something he always wanted,” Jeffrey Kelly said.
The seminary years took Father Kelly to New York, Washington and Rome
Father Kelly, who turned 27 on May 21, entered seminary right after graduating from Horseheads High School in 2013. He spent two years at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation and St. John’s in New York and three years at Theological College of Catholic University. of America in Washington, D.C. He attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome beginning in 2018, earning a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology in 2021. Fr. Kelly spent the last year at the Pontifical Gregorian University, also in Rome, and should receive his license. in canon law from this school in 2024.
Father Kelly was due to celebrate his first Mass as a priest on Sunday July 3 at 2 p.m. at St. Jerome’s Church in East Rochester. He will then celebrate all weekend Masses July 9 and 10 at All Saints Parish in Corning, followed by a summer assignment at Peace of Christ Parish in Rochester and the Diocesan Court. He will also celebrate the 10:30 a.m. liturgy on September 18 at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads before returning to Rome for his final two years of study.
Looking forward to celebrating the sacraments and preaching
Father Kelly said he was looking forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially reconciliation, and having more opportunities to preach — “to really be able to open up to people, give them something they can take away with them throughout the week, throughout the day, and to really deliver that message of hope that we have to offer.
Father Kelly, who was the only ordained priest for the Diocese of Rochester this year, added that he plans to continually stress the importance of strong, faith-filled families. By cultivating such families, he said, “vocations will flow naturally from that.”
The priestly journey involved constantly saying yes to Jesus
Reflecting on the spiritual path that led to his own priestly calling, Fr Kelly said the Sunday readings of June 26 and July 3 – and their themes of following Jesus and spreading his word – are perfectly suited to the odyssey he lived.
“It’s been a constant journey of just saying yes – saying yes to the opportunities that arise, saying yes to the invitation to follow closer,” he said.
This consistency has existed for two consecutive decades, he added, “I can’t think of a time at this point when I didn’t want to be a priest or felt called to be a priest.”
Yet now that he has been ordained a priest, Fr Kelly said it is still difficult for him to understand that the time has finally come.
“It hasn’t caught up with me yet, this whole ‘Father’ thing,” he laughed after the ordination mass.