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Biography - REV. HENRY A. O'KELLY

The great work of the Catholic church appealed most strongly to the Rev. Father O'Kelly from the time that he was a young lad until he entered its service, thenceforth to devote his life solely to God and his fellow men. His labors of zeal and love have borne abundant fruits, and no more revered and honored priest is often found in a community than the pastor of the church of the Immaculate Conception, in Streator.

A brief history of the Father's life will prove of interest to his numerous friends and admirers outside the church as well as those of his flock. He is a native of the beautiful Emerald Isle, his birth having occurred in the city of Galway, on the western coast, in 1852. A son of a physician of high standing, Dr. P. F. O'Kelly, he received exceptionally fine training and educational advantages, and was encouraged in his desire to enter the priesthood. The Doctor was a native of Dublin, and his wife, whose maiden name was Mary Birmingham, a daughter of Thomas Birmingham, Esq., of Ashgrove, county Galway, belonged to one of the most ancient AngloNorman families in Ireland.

When a young man of eighteen years the Rev. H. A. O'Kelly came to the United States, and at once entered a theological seminary in Troy, New York state. In research, study and preparation for the great work which was the goal of his ambition, he spent the subsequent eight years, being graduated and ordained a priest by Bishop Spalding, now of Peoria, Illinois. The young priest was then placed in charge of a congregation in Carthage, Hancock county, this state, and later was pastor of a church at El Paso, Illinois. In 1883 he came to Streator, where he has since officiated as the spiritual shepherd of the two hundred or more families included in the parish of the church of the Immaculate Conception. The house of worship was built by him, and in connection with this there is a flourishing school and a hospital founded by Father O'Kelly, some four hundred children being in regular attendance at the day and Sunday schools. Untiring in his zeal for the welfare of his church and people, there is little cause for wonder that Father O'Kelly is greatly loved and looked to for sympathy, help and counsel, which he never fails to give.

Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 17-18.

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