With sadness, but with faith in the Resurrection, we announce that our brother, Rev. Cornelius F. Kilty, OSFS, passed away at the age of 83 on Saturday, September 9, 2023. He was a professed member of the Oblates for 62 years and a priest for 54 years. A teacher, administrator, chaplain, archivist, and religious superior, Fr. Kilty was a dedicated Oblate and priest.
Born in Philadelphia on May 27, 1940, he was the son of Francis Kilty and Kathryn (Murray) Kilty. He attended Nativity BVM parish school and Northeast Catholic High School. Neil joined the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales after graduation in 1959. He made his First Profession of vows in 1961 and his Perpetual Profession in 1965.
Neil earned a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish from Niagara University (1964) and a Master of Arts in Classical Languages from Villanova University (1971). He completed his studies for the priesthood at De Sales School of Theology and was ordained a priest on June 6, 1969.
Following ordination, Fr. Kilty was assigned to Northeast Catholic High School where he served as teacher, department chair, activities director and track coach. Fr. Kilty called “North” his home for almost 30 years. During the 1970s, he was stationed at the school and only left Torresdale Avenue when the Oblates asked him to serve as Superior at the Oblate Seminary in Center Valley, PA. In the early 1980s, he was the Studies Director at Father Judge High School and continued to teach Latin.
Fr. Kilty returned to North Catholic when he was named Superior of the Northeast Catholic Oblate Community in 1987. He taught Latin and Greek and had a successful coaching career with the track team. It was during this time that Fr. Kilty oversaw the renovations of the chapel at the Oblate house and took on many projects around the property. Fr. Kilty served at North Catholic until the school closed in 2010. He remained a faithful “Falcon” until the day he died.
Fr. Kilty was the chaplain of the Northeast Catholic Alumni Association for over 25 years. He wrote a column in the alumni newsletter at least twice a year and organized the Alumni Mass & Communion Breakfast even in retirement. Though he was ill and slowing down, Fr. Kilty helped organize the last breakfast event in March of this year. He came back to Philadelphia in a wheelchair carrying an oxygen tank, but his mind and humor were as sharp as they were when he was a teacher. His friends and former students from North continued to visit him at the Oblate Assisted Care Facility (Annecy Hall) in Childs, Maryland. Members of the Alumni Association came to the hospital to be with him the day before he died.
After North Catholic closed, Fr. Kilty continued to teach part-time at Neumann-Goretti High School in South Philadelphia. A new generation of boys (and now girls) learned Latin, Greek and the old jokes that Fr. Kilty had been handing down for almost forty years.
Fr. Kilty was also an instructor in the Religious Studies division of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (Overbrook, PA) on the graduate and undergraduate levels. He was an adjunct faculty member at Holy Family, Immaculata, and LaSalle Universities in the Philadelphia area.
He served on the Board of Trustees for DeSales University and Mary Immaculate Seminary (Northampton, PA) and taught at Moravian University.
In 2002, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Fr. Kilty and what they called his “Greek chorus” at LaSalle University. The newspaper observed that many graduates of North followed him from high school to college and overwhelmed the university administration and language department by signing up for his Greek courses. One admiring student said Fr. Kilty was “a Greek god.”
He served as President of the Council of Religious Teachers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the 1970s. In the years following the Second Vatican Council and the renewal of religious life, Fr. Kilty was a frequent lecturer, facilitator, and retreat director for many communities of women religious in the archdiocese. He celebrated mass at different convents in the area, including the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Sister Marcella Louise Wallowicz, CSFN, was a professor at Holy Family University and recalled that after morning mass at the convent she and Fr. Kilty “would sit together in the dining room for breakfast and reminisce about the old Port Richmond neighborhood. As a teacher, I really enjoyed his classroom stories.”
Fr. Kilty was most associated with the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne (New York) and the facility they ran in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia: Sacred Heart Home for Incurable Cancer. Fr. Kilty first met the sisters when he served mass for them as a student at North Catholic in the 1950s. He was a regular altar boy helping the Oblate priests from North Catholic who ministered at the cancer home each morning at 6:30 AM. When Fr. Kilty returned to North after ordination, he would celebrate mass at the home along with the other Oblates assigned to the school. When the Oblate residence at North closed in 2000, Fr. Kilty became the main chaplain to the sisters and was faithful to them and their residents until the home suspended operations in the summer of 2018. At that time, Fr. Kilty retired to Annecy Hall.
Though he was retired and faced many physical limitations, Fr. Kilty continued to be an important part of the community and made many contributions to the Oblate archives and the North alumni. He worked as province archivist and never stopped compiling reports, writing articles, and typing up reflections and homilies on his trusty (and old) typewriter.
Fr. Kilty loved his old neighborhood and his home parish, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (now part of St. John Paul II Parish). He left this world just one day after the church calendar celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr. Kilty is preceded in death by his parents and his sister Eileen Manning. He is survived by his Oblate confreres, his nieces Christine Scanlon and Colleen Brett, his nephews Kevin Manning and Patrick Manning, and seven grandnieces and grandnephews.
May the angels lead him into paradise and may he rest in peace.
The viewing for Fr. Kilty will be held from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Tuesday, September 19 at Nativity BVM Church in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia (2535 E. Allegheny Avenue). The Mass of Christian Burial begins at 7 PM.
Burial will be the next day in the Oblate Cemetery at Childs, MD at 12:30 PM. A light reception will follow.
Condolences may be sent to Neil’s niece:
Mrs. Christine Scanlon
2886 Gradyville Road
Broomall, PA 19008