Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

In Memoriam – Jim Kelley

by | Nov 1, 2022

Jim Kelley


Jim Kelley, who served IVC for over twenty years as a service corps member, regional director and regional council member, and who oversaw the expansion of IVC into Northern Virginia, died November 1 in Fairfax, Va. He was 86.

On September 18 at IVC’s Evening of Gratitude, Jim received the Madonna Della Strada Award in honor of his years of direct service to the poor, and of working and educating for a more just society.  Although unable to attend in-person, Jim was honored by many family members and friends who gathered to celebrate this remarkable man.

Father Tuck Grinnell, who served as Jim’s pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church, Va., made introductory remarks.  “Jim’s whole life has been a life of service to the poor,” he said.  “He was a man who solved problems and saved peoples’ lives and brought real justice to others.  No one deserves this award more than Jim Kelley.”

Accepting the award on his behalf was his good friend Joe Bracken, who delivered Jim’s prepared remarks.   “What has sustained me and kept me going has been the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the loving support of my wife Margo, my son David, and of the IVC community,” Jim wrote in part.  “I am privileged to be used by God in this way of service.  Matthew 25 states: ‘Whatever you do to the least of these my people, you do to me.’ Nothing is more important; it is what IVC is all about. I am glad to have served and help others find the way of service both in the United States and overseas.”

Jim was born February 18, 1936, in Beloit, Wisc. to Daniel Edward and Arthis Marie (Holm) Kelley. He attended Brother Dutton School in Beloit and the Salvatorian Seminary in St. Nazianz, Wisc., prior to earning his bachelor’s degree from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC.

Jim completed a four-year program in theology at CUA and was ordained a priest in 1964.  He proceeded to Tanzania where he served as a parish priest, and later as diocesan Vicar General. He was laicized in 1969.

Jim’s career continued in pursuit of service and advocacy for the poor and marginalized for 25 years, first with the Department of State’s Refugee Bureau and later with the U.S. Peace Corps. He subsequently served in similar leadership roles with the Association of General Contractors, Catholic Relief Services and the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.  Fifteen of his 45 years of service were spent in Africa.

Jim’s first marriage, to Patricia Sykes, ended in divorce in 1981.

Jim is survived by his wife, Margo Tully-Kelley, whom he married on August 22, 2003, at St. Anthony of Padua; sister Mary (Paul) Murphy; son David (Phoebe) Kelley and their daughter Alice, Sara, and Colleen; his sisters-in-law Barbara (Thomas) Kelley and Mary (Paul) Kelley; his son-in-law Michael Lacopo and grandson Jack Lacopo; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He is pre-deceased by his parents, his daughter Sara Kelley Lacopo, his sister Colleen, who died as an infant, and his brothers Thomas and Paul.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, January 6, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 3513 N St NW, Washington, DC.