Fr Fritz celebrates his 90th birthday

Published 13/02/2016 | 00:00

Fr Fritz Kelly with family members at his 90th birthday party in the Talbot Hotel.
Fr Fritz Kelly with family members at his 90th birthday party in the Talbot Hotel.
Local Friars help Fr Fritz blow out the candle. From left, Fr Aguino Maliakkal, Fr James Mc Curry (Provincial), Fr Pawel Cebula, Fr Fritz Kelly, Fr Ciprian Budáu (Guardian) and Fr Peter Damian (Custos).
Fr Fritz Kelly with Presentation nun, Sister Margaret, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday.
Fr Fritz Kelly and Friary Wexford Guardian, Fr Ciprian Budáu.

Mission- and secular priests, brothers and nuns from different denominations from Wexford and from Africa, America, India and England recently attended a special one o'clock mass at the Friary in Wexford town to celebrate the 90th birthday of the popular and well-known Fr Malachy O'Kelly.

He is better known as the singing, joke-telling and inspirational preacher and missioner 'Fr. Fritz' who helped Christy Moore start his career in Manchester.

Now wheelchair-bound, Fr Fritz, who spent more than 40 years on the missions in Africa and has adopted Wexford as his home, was the focus of attention of 20 or more priests and brothers and a huge congregation for the mass. Fr. James McCurry, the provincial superior for America, England and Ireland, of his order the Conventual or 'Grey Friars', was the celebrant assisted by two fellow priests.

Mayor of Wexford Cllr Ger Carthy, Fr. Cyprian, the guardian of the Friary, Fr. Peter Damien, head of the order in England, Monsignor Denis Lennon of Clonard parish, representing Bishop Denis Brennan, Fr. Aidan Walsh of Fairview, Dublin, former guardian of the Friary, Fr. Tom Flanagan head of the Coptic Orthodox church in Ireland, Fr. Jim Fegan, PP, Ballindaggin, representatives of different religious orders in the town and Jim Breen, agronomist and inspector of development projects in the Third World were among the congregation for the mass.

Among the congregation too were his extended family members who included his nephew Fr Jim Pollock ,of Clonmel, his grandnephew Andrew Pollock, magazine editor and niece Sinead Pollock, a youth leader in Wicklow. There too were friends from his time in Zambia, Ted McCormack, and Fintan and Eileen Lalor.

Fr Fritz is son of an Irish father and a German mother and was born in Kilmallock, Co Limerick on January 28, 1926. His family moved to Cobh ,Co Cork where as a teenager, he met the 168 German sailors who survived a naval engagement with British warships in the Bay of Biscay during World War II in 1942 and were brought to safety in Cobh by the Wexford ship, the Kerlogue. As a fluent speaker in Irish, English and German he became interpreter and life-long friend of the sailors.

His nephew Paddy Pollock from Cork and family were among those who hosted an afternoon of entertainment for him and about 60 friends and family at the Talbot Hotel where he joined in singing the 'Banks of My Own Lovely Lee' and where fellow friars and family sang, played music and danced and helped him cut his birthday cake and blow out nine candles representative of his 90 years .

Fr Fritz is the author of the best-seller 'Love from Zambia', a book of his letters from the Bush area of Africa.

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