Eleven Kelly siblings leave legacy at Franciscan


It’s nothing unusual to have a family of twelve in Catholic circles. What is unusual is when eleven of those twelve end up at the same university.

There are currently four Kellys enrolled in Franciscan University’s undergraduate programs. This trend apparently began when the oldest sibling, Marie Kelly, attended the university’s conferences and then became the trailblazer of the family.

Since then, 10 more Kellys have chosen to follow in her footsteps.

“Our mom and dad will help us with our tuition if the college takes the oath of fidelity to the pope,” said freshman Martin Kelly. “I think that’s why Franciscan has run in our family for a while.”

He added, “The fact that there’s a really solid faith formation and basis here is what attracted me.”

Senior Helen Kelly voiced similar thoughts, saying additionally that access to daily Mass is critical to her parents. Her own decision to attend the school was influenced by her family.

“(My siblings) were part of the deciding factor … just their enjoyment of Franciscan … them coming home on breaks … put a positive effect,” said Helen Kelly. “They didn’t have to say anything … from the moment I was 12, I knew I was coming to Franciscan.”

Senior Brian Kelly said, “(My parents) help me financially as well as spiritually; they pray for me and my siblings every day and they wanted to ensure that in order to continue our development as Catholics we went to a college that swore an oath to the pope.”

When asked if the presence of family on campus was a help or a hindrance, the siblings all agreed that they had only positive experiences to relate.

“I feel like I’ve been brought in a lot faster … having my family around helped me to integrate a little easier,” said Martin Kelly.

“Only siblings know you in a way that no one else can,” said Helen Kelly. “When things happen in the family back home it’s nice to have people who understand what you’re going through.”

Junior Brigid Kelly said of her family, “It helped at the beginning. I really was able to delve into the community.”

Though they are each pursuing different majors, the siblings enjoy sharing a community and running into each other around campus.

“I thought we would be in totally different circles, but I ended up housing with one of my sister’s drama major friends,” said Brigid Kelly.

And each of the siblings has found a niche in the Franciscan community. From the beginning, the Kellys were part of households and had quality experiences at the university.

Brian Kelly said,“(My siblings) all talked about the community and I felt that after seeing them have such a great time here and after having visited quite a few times it just really felt like a good place to go to school.”

According to Helen and Brian, their brothers Anthony and Kevin assisted in the founding of the now inactive household Warriors of Light, and were closely connected with the founding fathers of the “competing” household, Pater Noster. Other household connections include Handmaids of the Lord, Daughters of Zion, Daughters of Divine Mercy, Servants of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and Madonna of the Streets.

Brian said he found it astounding that in a family with such diverse interests, each of the siblings chose Franciscan.

“We all found something we liked here that we wanted to experience,” said Helen Kelly.

Yet the Kelly legacy is drawing near to its end. With Brigid Kelly transferring to Notre Dame in the fall to pursue a degree in engineering, Helen Kelly graduating in May and Brian Kelly graduating in December, it will soon be up to Martin Kelly to represent the family name.

“I will definitely be sad to leave here,” said Brigid Kelly. “Franciscan has opened me up more, challenged me in faith … made me want to own my faith and be more independent.”

Brian Kelly said, “As a Catholic at some point you have to decide that you are Catholic, that you do believe everything (that the Church teaches), and I feel like coming here has helped me make that decision.”

He added, “I’m really proud of all of my siblings who all came here and thankful for my parents. I think it’s an impressive legacy we have created.”