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Dallas Diocese Gets A New Assistant Bishop, Thanks To The Pope

Bill Zeeble
Newly named auxilliary bishop John Gregory Kelly, at the lectern, and Bishop Kevin Farrell talked with reporters Wednesday.

The constantly growing Catholic Diocese of Dallas will have a new assistant bishop, courtesy of the Pope. Word came Wednesday from Rome that Monsignor John Gregory Kelly was named bishop.

“Christmas came early to the Diocese of Dallas,” Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell said.

He cheerfully delivered the official Vatican news to reporters and Diocese employees Wednesday morning.

Monsignor Kelly has been a priest in the Dallas Diocese for nearly 34 years. He came from Colorado to attend the University of Dallas four decades ago, when he wasn’t yet sure this was his calling.

“I didn’t really want to come to Texas because when you’re from Colorado you don’t really want to live in Texas,” Kelly said with a straight face, as listeners laughed out loud. “People asked me why I came here. I just said I wanted to be a missionary in a foreign country. When you’re from Colorado, Texas qualifies.” 

Kelly was on a roll. How did it feel to be named bishop?

“I remember an old story about a guy who jumped off the Empire State Building," Kelly said. "He could be heard saying, all the way down, ‘so far so good.’ So far so good, I guess.” 

He did turn serious.

“Coming down here and being part of this church, the formation of the Holy Trinity Seminary, the academic work at the University of Dallas I just found so engaging, and then being part of church here, which is growing, and energetic,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who’s 59, said three decades ago, the diocese counted 186,000 Catholics. Today, it’s 1.3 million.

Bishop Farrell says it’s the densest diocese in Texas.

“We grow from an influx of people from northern states who are coming to Dallas, and we grow from the blessings we receive from an immigrant community," Farrell says.

That immigrant community’s been in the news lately, whether Syrians seeking refuge from war, or immigrant children staying for three weeks in Ellis County.

“We always need to keep our minds and hearts open to the less fortunate.” Farrell said. “And many times immigrants and refugees have received a very bad day that they do not deserve. They are human beings like each and every one of us. And just like we are not all criminals, they are not all criminals either.”

Farrell said Monsignor Kelly would be ordained bishop Feb. 11. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.