Long-time pastor stepping down

Rev. Richard Kelley to retire from St. Christopher’s after leading for 18-years

Staff photo by Damien Fisher The Rev. Richard Kelley is leaving St. Christopher’s, where he’s been pastor for the past 18 years, as he sets to retire from his pastoral duties.

NASHUA – As he gets ready to leave St. Christopher Parish on Manchester Street, the Rev. Richard Kelley said he will miss helping people as a pastor.

“I’m going to miss the people, and the day-to-day contact,” he said.

Kelley, 75, is retiring as pastor this month, with a parish celebration scheduled for June 24. He’s been serving residents in Nashua for the past 18 years, and has been an ordained priest for 46 years. He’s also served as the chaplain for the Nashua Police Department.

Kelley grew up in the Boston area and said he always felt a call to the priesthood, though his call faltered as a young man after he attended seminary for a few years. Kelley left school and worked, but after a couple of years, found himself turned toward the priesthood again. He was accepted into the program for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, ultimately being ordained in 1972.

“I was made to feel so welcome coming up here to New Hampshire,” he said.

Kelley’s brother, Edward, is also a priest, serving as a pastor in Portsmouth, and later serving as a military chaplain.

Kelley has also celebrated the Tuesday Mass at Thomas More College in Merrimack.

Nashua’s changed a lot in his time as pastor, with an influx of the faithful from Africa, Asia, and South America now calling New Hampshire home. St. Christopher has a vibrant community of Vietnamese Catholics, he said.

“They’ve been a wonderful addition to this parish,” he said.

There are immigrant communities at St. John XXIII, and at St. Aloysious as well. Kelley said this isn’t too different from when the Irish, Italian, and French Canadians came to Nashua.

“We’ve always been a church of immigrants in this country,” Kelley said.

Kelley plans to retire to St. Patrick Parish in Pelham, where he will reside in the rectory.

“I’m not going too far away,” he said.

He wants to keep active as a priest, celebrating Mass where needed, and serving people where he can. He hopes to assist with the vocations in the diocese, and to help keep the history of the diocese, working with the archives kept in Manchester.

“I’ve been in the diocese for 46 years – I know a little bit about it,” he said.

Though the Church has been though troubles in recent years, Kelley is optimistic about the future. He sees challenges ahead for his replacement, the Rev. David Harris, in bringing more young people into the parish. But, Kelley said the Church will prevail.

“The Church will be around a long time after we’re all gone,” he said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.