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Flying priest killed in crash on way to Mass

73 year old Fr Jim Kelley was killed on Saturday when his plane went down on bad weather while en route to remote parts of southwest Alaska to celebrate Palm Sunday masses.

"He was doing the two things he loved best -- ministering to the people and flying," said Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage. "He was one of the finest priests we had."

Reaching out to isolated villages, Fr Kelley logged about 500 hours a year flying from town to town in a parish that officials call the largest in the world in size.

The priest's Piper Cherokee crashed into a mountain in blizzard conditions. His body was found Monday.

Kelley, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, was one of two priests who fly to parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of Anchorage. The parish serves 600 people in 23 communities spread across more than 53,000 square kilometres on Alaska's mainland and stretching to the Aleutian Islands, said Charles McBride, an archdiocese spokesman.

"There are real remote areas in the parish. Many villages are not accessible by car," McBride said. "Fr Kelley felt flying was the only way you could really cover the area -- and in many respects it is."

Tribute to Fr Jim Kelley (Archdiocese of Anchorage)
Archdiocese of Anchorage


28 Mar 2002