Chaplain leaves his mark at Saint Mary's

By  Christine Thibeault, Youth Speak News
  • April 11, 2008

{mosimage}HALIFAX - Deacon Dan Kelly, S.J., 41, of Campbell’s Bay, Que., has been the chaplain at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax since September 2007.

Kelly has implemented many changes to put the chaplaincy centre on the map at the university, such as hosting more activities in the chapel, like movie nights, and an attempt at launching a video contest on Gospel values at Saint Mary’s. Unfortunately, the contest lacked participation, but Kelly plans to try again in the fall.


Kelly has also updated the space to make it more welcoming to students, such as getting new furniture this past month, beginning with more relaxed lights and a new couch for visiting students to lounge on. Prior to these changes, the office, although having a welcoming presence, lacked  esthetic appeal.

Kelly is speaking up and making requests for more space updates. For example, the carpet is 20 years old, and will now be replaced during the summer months.

Kelly said that he wants a more “coffee lounge feeling” at the centre.

Since September, he has also made the food bank more accessible, moving it to the front office, rather than in the sacristy where it was kept previously. Kelly and his staff plan to continue to come up with more creative ideas to further enhance the profile of the chaplaincy centre in the future.

Youth Speak News recently sat down with Kelly and asked him about his experience as chaplain thus far.

YSN: What struggles do you face as a university chaplain?

Kelly: Nothing in my previous life has prepared me. There’s a steep learning curve in this job, and I came in not knowing what to expect.

YSN: What goals do you have as a chaplain?

Kelly: There’s a part in the “Desiderata”: “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” It comes down to loving. It’s not about numbers for me. It’s not about making a bunch of little Catholics; it’s to have the chaplaincy as a source of love.

YSN: How do you plan to implement these goals?

Kelly: How does one set goals? Really, it’s in hiring and selecting people with a similar disposition.

YSN: What would you say is your favourite part of the job?

Kelly: I’ve never enjoyed a job more than this one. My favourite part is just showing up.

YSN: What do you believe campus chaplains are for?

Kelly: From what I’ve learned, they are there for the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects (such as visiting people in the hospital) of a human person, three of the four human aspects. We tend to counsel on emotional issues. University deals with the intellectual aspects.

(Thibeault, 19, studies philosophy at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.) 

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