This article is from the winter 2022 edition of The Vincentian, the newsletter of the Congregation of the Mission Western Province, published in December. Find the newsletter online HERE.

Fr.  Gerard Kelly, C.M., recently wrapped up what he called the honor of his life after 24 years as chaplain of Catholic Charities of Chicago. He left the position earlier this year, pleased that he had fulfilled in role in the Vincentian tradition.

Fr. Gerry took the position after a recommendation from a colleague got him an interview with Msgr. Michael Boland in Chicago. The organization was far different at that time than it would become by the time he left it.

“It was fairly small,” Fr. Gerry said. “It later expanded to about 3,000 employees. I’ve done much of what a parish priest does—hospital visits, wakes and funerals for staff and clients. It has been a lot of things over the years. I became chaplain for the board, too.”

Fr. Gerry grew up in Chicago and says he never knew the extent of what Catholic Charities did until taking on the chaplain role. The position connected him with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, for which he has served as spiritual advisor since 1998, as well as the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago, for which he has also been celebrating the Eucharist for more than two decades.

“Anything having to do with charity in Chicago—I have been able to have access to that,” Fr. Gerry said. “If someone needed help, the answer is in the Catholic Charities’ building somewhere.”

In addition to the growth of the organization, Fr. Gerry has seen changes in leadership. When Msgr. Boland retired, Kathy Donahue took the helm as its first female CEO.

“She is the epitome of a servant leader,” Fr. Gerry said.

He tells the story of a client who was an African-American Vietnam veteran, former police officer, and, it would be discovered, a classical jazz pianist. When he died, they arranged for a military burial in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

“When it came time to hand the flag to someone, they handed it to me,” Fr. Gerry said. “It was very meaningful. There is no part of the city that I don’t have a memory of doing something in the name of Catholic Charities. People knew I was a Vincentian doing this, which was important to me.”