Father Michael M. Kelliher, SJ, entered into God's peace on November 24 at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, Calif. He was 82.
Fr. Kelliher was born in Spokane, June 13, 1934, to Michael and Helen (Hager) Kelliher. He spent all his formative years on Capitol Hill and attended St. Joseph's Grade School, Seattle Preparatory, and one year at Seattle University before he entered the Society of Jesus at Sheridan, Ore., in 1953.
Ordained in 1967 at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane, Fr. Kelliher earned his PhD in criminology from the distinguished program at the University of California, Berkeley, and was perhaps the only Jesuit in the world trained to administer polygraphs. He co-founded Seattle University's pioneering program in criminal justice in 1972 with former Seattle Police Chief Gene Corr and was much beloved by his students.
These were heady days because the federal government had allocated good funding for the LEAP program, designed to give police and other law enforcement officers a college education to ground and guide their expertise. Fr. Kelliher reveled in it and spent a lot of time with the police in Seattle and Bellevue, learning their culture, their problems, and their needs.
Twice Fr. Kelliher received the "Outstanding Teaching of the Year" for Seattle University. Under his leadership, the department received the "Outstanding Achievement Award" from the Washington State Council on Crime and Delinquency in 1990. His career was one of quiet and generous service to His God and to His people.
Fr. Kelliher was a strong advocate of restorative justice, rather than punitive justice. During an academic sabbatical year, he explored programs in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Northern Ireland to investigate their approach to reconciliation.
All of this Fr. Kelliher accomplished while battling severe health problems. He had chronic circulation problems in his legs for 40 years and developed severe diabetes.
In the Jesuit community, Fr. Kelliher was a quiet and warm presence. He played golf with his Jesuit brothers, and regularly joined the Monday night poker games. His innate curiosity always got the better of him, so he was a regular contributor to others' winnings. He couldn't just fold a poor hand; he had to see it out to the end.
His classmate for 12 years, Fr. John Topel, SJ, said that at every stage of their friendship Fr. Kelliher was quiet, mirthful, generous, and loving. When she heard of his death, Jackie Helfgott, the current chair of the Seattle University's criminal justice department, offered a warm eulogy, and said that during this season of Thanksgiving, Fr. Kelliher's passing is a reminder to all of to be thankful to have known him. He was a special person, and he will be deeply missed.
His brother, Pat, and his sister, Shirley, preceded him in death. Fr. Kelliher is survived by his brother, Tim (Shoreline, Wash.), nieces and nephews, and his Jesuit brothers in the Society of Jesus.
A funeral Mass was celebrated December 1 in the Jesuit House Chapel at Gonzaga University, Spokane, followed by burial at Mt. St. Michaels Cemetery in Spokane. A memorial service was celebrated at Seattle University, December 5 in the Chapel of St. Ignatius. Donations in honor of Fr. Kelliher may be sent to the Senior Fund, Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, P.O. Box 86010, Portland, OR 97286, or through the province's secure donation site at www.jesuitswest.org/donations online.