Over a thousand family, friends, alumni, and students of Christendom College gathered to attend the solemn funeral Mass of Fr. James P. O’Kielty, longtime assistant college chaplain on February 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. Fr. O’Kielty, who served as a missionary, Navy Chaplain, and assistant chaplain at Christendom, died after receiving last rites on February 18.

Alumni, family, and friends traveled from across the United States to attend Fr. O’Kielty’s funeral, including alumni priests who concelebrated the Mass. Christendom chaplain Fr. Marcus Pollard celebrated the Mass and praised Fr. O’Kielty as a beacon of faithfulness, love, and humor in his homily.

“The strongest impression of Fr. O’Kielty is the depth of his heart and the depth of his love,” said Fr. Pollard. “The depth of his love for the faith, the depth of his love for the priesthood, and the depth of his love for the college — both as an institution and very specifically for all of the students, in the past and today. He had a profound love for Our Lord and Our Lady, and a love for Ireland. He loved deeply and passionately.”

Fr. Marcus Pollard celebrated the Mass.

Fr. Pollard spoke at length of Fr. O’Kielty’s character, from his sharp wit to his unending commitment to his priestly life. He was so concerned for the Christendom student body and the college’s chaplaincy that he even gave up his day off to serve the community, according to Fr. Pollard — a testament to the incredible life he lived. Even in the hospital, Fr. O’Kielty’s spiritual life never wavered. He insisted on saying the Divine Office, receiving the sacraments, and preparing himself to meet the Lord, revealing his deep faith and love for Christ.

“What I would ask you to walk away with, in terms of thinking about him, is to ask for the grace to love deeply — as much as Our Lord’s love and Our Lady’s love,” said Fr. Pollard. “To love the faith, to love the church, to love one another, to love this community. That love that Our Lord can give us, that we saw, that I saw, in his life, overcomes everything. Love is everything.”

College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered the eulogy.

After the Mass, College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered Fr. O’Kielty’s eulogy.

“How does one capture a life? Especially the life of a great man, a life so filled and rich in meaning and purpose,” said O’Donnell. “He heard our confessions for over seventeen years. He knew our sins, he knew our failings, and yet he loved us passionately and joyfully, warts and all, and always encouraging the penitent.”

O’Donnell spoke at length about Fr. O’Kielty’s deep faith, his love of the Mass, and the presence he had in the lives of all who knew him. Whether it was a child, a student, a professor, or a nurse, it did not matter to Fr. O’Kielty — he loved all he encountered and shared the Catholic Faith passionately. Even in his final days in the hospital, he thought of others, according to O’Donnell, responding in humor and affection to all he encountered. His earthly life ended as he lived it — with love, with humor, and with faith.

Christ the King Chapel was filled to capacity and beyond for the Mass.

“Let us all continue to pray for our beloved Fr. O’Kielty, with hearts filled with love. Thank you, Father, for your paternal presence. Thank you, Father, for your humor and for your wit. Thank you for your love for Ireland and her glorious tradition. Thank you for the great service you rendered to our country. Thank you for giving each and every one of us so many memories, and so many stories we can pass down to our children and our grandchildren. Above all else, thank you, Father, for your gift of faith, and for strengthening your brothers and sisters in Christ in the one holy, Catholic and apostolic faith.”

Read the full text here (PDF).

Following the funeral ceremonies, all present gathered in the college’s St. Lawrence Commons for a reception, celebrating the life of Fr. O’Kielty, who dearly loved the entire Christendom community throughout his nearly twenty years of service to the college. He expressed as much in his final Christmas letter, sent to family and friends to close 2018.

“This was an especially good year to be at Christendom College, the most Catholic place in the whole wide world,” wrote Fr. O’Kielty. “Christmas means that a New Year is just around the corner. I wish you all a blessed, grace-filled, love-focused 2019. You will be in my Masses and prayers for that intention. Keep me in yours.”

Even the Chapel Crypt was filled, as students watched a livestream of the Mass being celebrated upstairs.

Read the full letter here (PDF).

A Requiem Memorial Mass will be celebrated for Fr. O’Kielty on March 2 at 11:30 a.m. at Christ the King Chapel, on Christendom’s Front Royal, Virginia campus. Following the Mass, Fr. O’Kielty will be buried at 1:30 p.m. at Good Hope Cemetery.

The homily from the funeral Mass is available here.

The eulogy is available here.

Pictures from the funeral are available here.

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