Take 5 with Father: building community from ballpark to monastery

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

Father Daniel Kelley (NTC photo/Juan Guajardo)

HE IS: Father Daniel Kelley, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Arlington.

He was ordained Dec. 9, 1995 and has served at St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills; Immaculate Conception Church in Denton; Holy Angels Parish in Clifton; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Morgan; and St. George Parish in Fort Worth.

GROWING UP: Converts to Catholicism, his parents raised seven children in the Dallas area, where Fr. Kelley attended Catholic schools.

LEGACY OF SERVICE: He served almost five years in the Air Force, and for two years he was stationed in England doing reconnaissance photography. His family has a longstanding military tradition: his father served in WWII, his grandfather in WWI, and his forefathers in the Revolutionary War.

THE CALL: During his military service, Fr. Kelley began to consider religious life. After he was discharged, he read The Seven Storey Mountain, an autobiography of Trappist monk Thomas Merton. He wondered if God was calling him to become a monk, and he visited several religious communities. A vocations director at a monastery suggested he was more suited to be a diocesan priest.

BEST PART OF BEING A PRIEST: Parish life! Fr. Kelley loves celebrating Mass and the other sacraments. One recent Sunday at 8:30 a.m. Mass, he baptized the baby of a couple he had married, then at the 11 a.m. Mass he brought an 86-year-old into full communion with the Church — “a wonderful ceremony.”

A TRAVELING MAN: Fr. Kelley keeps his Mass kit close at hand. He’s the Catholic chaplain for the Texas Rangers and celebrates Mass at the ballpark every Sunday with a home game. A lifelong baseball fan, he said the visiting team and ballpark employees usually attend Mass, but he has met current players around the facility.

Fr. Kelley also celebrates Mass regularly for the “wonderful community of nuns” at the Carmelite monastery in Arlington.

HOOKED ON CONVERSION: The conversion stories he’s heard on EWTN’s program, “The Journey Home” have prompted him to delve deeper into the early Church Fathers. He’s fascinated by “how Protestants see who we are and what we believe” and wonders why “if Catholics believe, why don’t they act like it?”

His desire for Catholics to understand and live their faith has led him to revamp catechesis at St. Joseph, from Baptism classes to year-round RCIA and adult education offering enormous online resources.

VIBRANT PARISHES: Fr. Kelley has enjoyed serving each parish, but especially remembers fondly the rural parish of Morgan, “a very lively community.” People traveled from five counties for Mass and afterwards gathered under the pecan trees and socialized for hours. He appreciates the diversity of St. George and his current assignment, which has families from many countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. He said it’s a “good challenge getting cultures to understand each other and work with each other.”

IN THE COMMUNITY: Fr. Kelley founded Arlington Mansfield Organizing Strategy, an interfaith organization working to regulate predatory loans, to build relationships between the immigrant community and police, and to advocate for the common good.

HOBBIES: Genealogy. He’s solved “mysteries” and learned he is related to several presidents and had ancestors on the Mayflower. “It’s fun knowing the connections.” Also, he has a golden retriever named Ruby and a saltwater fish tank.

HIS WISH: For people “to have a real desire, a love to go to Mass.”

Take 5 with Father Daniel Kelley, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington, who loves conversion stories, the Texas Rangers, and the Mass.