The following are some random thoughts jotted down by Alumni Association President, Bob Kensil, the evening we all heard the news about Father Kilty's passing.
Fr. Kilty, to some people, he was "The Man", to others he was the Myth or the Legend, to those of us that were taught by him or knew him, he was all the above, but mostly a friend. Himself would have just said ‘I’m just a Man’. When you talked to him you could tell he was from Port Richmond/Northeast Catholic from his accent and other ‘choice’ words he could use when necessary, but the things he said, without hesitation were always amusing, brilliant, spontaneous and right to the point.
Now I know Fr. Kilty wasn’t finished with his earthly term, and he sure enough didn’t want to pass on to his eternal reward just yet. But as I heard a couple of times tonight already, can you imagine what passed on Saturday between Neil and St. Peter at the ‘Pearly Gates’? How about when he runs into Moses and tells him "I have 5 or 10 more Commandments that are much better than the original 10," or he would ask him “how’d you really do that parting the Red Sea deal?” Matthew/Mark/Luke and John better be on their toes for some praise and critiquing too. I’m sure Fr. Kilty, in the past thought about meeting St. Francis de Sales, and I am sad but overjoyed that he will finally get his wish. I bet they will have a good Ole’ time discussing the claim of the West Catholic Burrs that they graduated more ‘Religious’ than every school in Philly’. Yes, when he heard that statement Neil took it as a challenge and for the last few years was doing the research to prove them wrong.
Fr. Kilty was brought up in a time of dying & war, Fascism had overrun Europe and the Pacific. Next came the Korean War, and then he had to watch some of his students go to war in Vietnam. Sadly some didn’t return home. He saw 7 Popes, 7 Archbishops, the closing of many schools, the abortion issue, the Phillies and Eagles win a couple world championships. These events, some wonderful and some not so wonderful, affected him. But Fr. Kilty saw in St. Francis de Sales a gentleness, a brilliance and a love of God and his fellow man. So, after graduating he entered the Oblates of St. Francis, he came back to North Catholic and taught us many subjects, I was lucky enough to have him teach me Religion. Others had him for one of the 1/2 dozen or more languages he spoke and understood. One of his former French class students said Fr. KIlty would proclaim to them “How can I teach you boys a foreign language when you don’t even speak English?” How about what one of his NC classmates, John O’ Rourke, said about him, “I was honored to be a friend, and when we met, Neil asked me my name, I told him John. He immediately called me ‘Jack’, which I told him that no one ever called me that. Neil’s response was “Good that’s what I’ll call you.” And it stuck…..He is still the only one to call me that.”
Now ‘Jack’ wasn’t the only email or Facebook Post I received about our friend. I'll share a few of them here...
Barbara Murray Rilling…’Beautiful tribute to Fr. Kilty, EXCEPT he was 82, he was born May 27, 1941! I’ve known him for 67 years he was a ‘Blind Date’ in 1956. He was a good friend and we will miss him.
Dan Adair Class of ’76…Rest in Peace Fr. Kilty.
Stephanie Mike Morris…’One of my favorite people.’
Deacon Steve Guckin…’You were one of the GREATEST.’
John Shimp…’One of the greatest priests I’ve ever had the chance to know. I had him all four years at North’ and quote him often. I was also fortunate enough that he married me and my wife. He was a true Salesian gentleman and made the priesthood relatable. May he Rest in Peace.’
Now this next one, I think sums up Fr. Kilty pretty good…..
Mike Fenerty class of ’81…’Fr. Kilty has been a friend since I was in grade school. He celebrated my Father’s (class of 1942) funeral. He offered great advice and humorous insults to me countless times, all while being a true priest. May God Bless Him!’
Fr. Kilty, was like all of us, disappointed when the folks downtown made the decision to close our beloved school. He immediately coined the phrase “Well, we are Norphans now.” Fr. had been the Alumni Association’s Chaplain for a long time and we always look forward to his Chaplain’s Corner article in the Falconer newsletter, which he usually started off with his GENTLE + CARING who ‘went home to God’ list but always finished up with some great words by St. Francis, Fr. Brisson, or even Irish composer James Coulter. Neil once wrote about Fr. Thomas J. Gillespie class of ’50, “He was a gentle and compassionate man, a good listener. Fr. Gillespie was later appointed ‘Novice Master’ and Fr. Kilty claimed the novitiate is like a ‘religious boot camp, and the Novice Master, Fr. Gillespie, would be like a drill sergeant.”
Fr. Kilty had many friends from NC, the Oblate community, and this parish. I'd like to also mention one person in particular; Joe Glackin, who has been a grand friend to Neil for a long time and was a great help to him, THANK YOU JOE! One of his more memorable columns was the 2021 issue where he mentions his longtime friendship with Len Knobbs and his wife Barbara, and their bi-monthly phone calls and visits. He wrote “Len’s gift to North Catholic and the Alumni Association was his Faithfulness.” Fr. quoted a line from one of Mr. Coulter’s songs to describe Len’s friendship “And tho’ he may be gone, memories will linger on. And I’ll miss him-the old man.” A couple of other longtime friends of Fr. KIlty’s, Steve Cardullo ‘72 and myself, went to visit him in the hospital in Wilmington, DE on Friday, the day before he passed. Neil was having a difficult time speaking without coughing and he was weak from only drinking Ensure drinks and coughing all night, but he was sharp in his mind and tongue as he rang the buzzer and said “where is that nurse at, they take forever to get here in this place”. We didn’t get a long visit but those minutes were and will always remain in our hearts as very special.
Coincidentally today at Mass, the Responsorial Psalm was #95:1-2... "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart." Boy we would surely like to hear his voice at the next Communion Breakfast Mass. And maybe give us the punch lines from the jokes he told at the last Breakfast. At the head table were laughing because we heard the punch lines, but the crowd only heard the lead in to the joke as the microphone had some technical difficulty.
Another special event on the day Neil passed was the Phillies tribute game for children with serious illnesses, and I made myself a promise to pray and ask Fr. to intercede for any child I hear of that is sick.
We will miss you Fr. KIlty and will use the words of St. Francis de Sales, from The Introduction to the Devout Life (part 1,17), “From the heights of Heaven, Jesus mercifully looks down upon you and graciously invites you there. He says “Come, dear soul, find everlasting rest in my bountiful arms where I have prepared undying happiness for you in the abundance of my love.”
Rest in Peace Our Friend!