The Society of Jesus in the United States announced today that Fr. William J. Kelley, SJ, has been named the new secretary for social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Jesuit Conference is the liaison office that coordinates the national work of the Jesuits, the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. As secretary for social and international ministries, Fr. Kelley’s responsibilities will include coordinating and supporting the Jesuits’ social justice work in the U.S. and networking with international justice ministries. Fr. Kelley assumes his new role in the fall.
Currently serving as the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the California Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Kelley’s life as a Jesuit has been defined by his care for those who are at the margins, especially those from Latin America.
Originally from Philadelphia, he first met the Jesuits as a student at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, and following his 1973 graduation, Fr. Kelley entered the Maryland Province Jesuits. Always interested in international ministry, Fr. Kelley was missioned to Chile in the late 1970s to serve for two years as a teacher at the Colegio San Mateo in Osorno.
After obtaining a master’s degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Fr. Kelley returned to Chile to study at the ILADES Latin American Institute of Doctrine and Social Studies in Santiago. Following ordination in 1985, he returned to Chile for 2 ½ years to work in a parish in Santiago. After several years of graduate studies at Stanford, Fr. Kelley served in parish ministry for nearly 15 years in Jesuit churches in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. Much of his parish work has been devoted to ministering to Hispanic and urban congregations and accompanying those who are struggling with issues surrounding immigration.
“As I look back over my life as a Jesuit, the single most important thing that ever happened to me was the opportunity to go to Chile early on, which helped shape everything that came later. I’ve found myself always seeking opportunities and assignments that would bring me into contact with Hispanic people,” said Fr. Kelley. “The years of working in parishes have helped me see the needs of those we minister to, especially in terms of immigration and the impact of poverty. This position perfectly encompasses everything that gives me life, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Father Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, said, “In addition to his many years of parish ministry, Fr. Kelley brings solid academic credentials to his new role heading our office of social and international ministries. His extensive experience in Latin America will be extremely important as the Society of Jesus continues to put our work for faith and justice at the forefront of everything we do.”
Fr. Kelley replaces Fr. Thomas Greene, SJ, who will next serve as rector of the Bellarmine House of Studies, a Jesuit formation center in St. Louis. Of Fr. Green’s tenure, Fr. Smolich said, “I am profoundly grateful for the contributions of Father Tom Greene. “He brought energy, focus, and leadership to our advocacy efforts and because of his work and devotion to social justice, we’ve made tremendous strides in the last four years.”