FATHER Lewy Keelty’s celebration of 50 years of priesthood comes at a time when his Oblate community at Iona College, Wynnum, also celebrates Fr Mark Edwards becoming a bishop.
Fr Keelty was due to celebrate his anniversary yesterday (December 20) and Fr Edwards’ episcopal ordination was to have been held on Wednesday (December 17) in Melbourne, where he will serve as an auxiliary bishop.
Fr Keelty, who is superior of the Oblates’ community at Iona College, Wynnum, was ordained a priest in Ireland in 1964.
Oblates vocations co-ordinator and chaplain to Rosies in Queensland Fr John Sherman said Fr Keelty “with his contagious smile, admits he just had to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate”.
“With two uncles Oblates and his father, brother, uncles and cousins attending the Oblate College Dublin, it could be said that the Oblate missionary spirit was in his DNA,” Fr Sherman said.
Arriving in Australia in 1965, Fr Keelty soon joined the Oblate Mission Band, which in those days preached missions and retreats throughout Australia.
“Fr Lewy, threw himself into this great work with enthusiasm,” Fr Sherman said.
“For him it was a call to work with local Church communities in bringing people closer to God in Jesus.”
Fr Sherman said Fr Keelty, “in his senior years, (did) not need a four-wheel-drive and caravan to explore Australia”.
“He has been there and missioned in the name of Jesus,” he said.
“Before the frequency of plane travel in Queensland it was rail travel on The Sunlander, The Outlander, The Westlander and The Inlander.
“He talks with familiarity and affection for the parish communities along these routes as he worked from the Oblate Mission House in Eagle Junction (1974-80).
“As an excellent speaker and preacher, in a positive way, he continues to challenge and call those present to come deeper and closer to God.
“Today as chaplain at Iona College, his material is always fresh, well prepared and thought out, and he is clear, helpful and to the point.
“Fr Lewy is a great reader – a habit inherited from his family and developed and continued throughout his life.”
Fr Sherman said Fr Keelty’s love for discussion and reflection equipped him especially in the post-Second Vatican Council period to assist parishes and religious congregations in their renewal journey.
“The support he gave to a number of religious congregations during this period is gratefully remembered,” he said.
With personnel shortage and the social changes in Australia, the Oblate Mission Band ceased and Fr Keelty was drafted into parish life.
He has been a parish priest for almost 30 years in various parishes including Rosebud, Victoria, from 1983-89; Moe, Victoria (1989); Tea Tree Gully, South Australia (1990-96); Sunshine, Victoria (1996-2001); Burpengary, Queensland (2002-07); and Lesmurdie, Western Australia (2008-10).
“To all these communities he brought his wisdom and experience from the missions,” Fr Sherman said.
“He built up structures that help to carry the parishes forward.”
Fr Keelty has been involved in many lay groups especially the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, Cursillo, Antioch, Better World retreats, Marriage Encounter and many parish-based groups.
“As an Oblate, Fr Lewy is a strong community person,” Fr Sherman said.
“He is interested in the lives of those he lives with and when (they are) sick or in need he cares for them.
“His welcoming smile is there for any visitor to feel ‘come and share our community’.
“Central to his life is prayer, the Eucharist, devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the welfare of all those to whom he ministers.”