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James P. Keleher Edit Profile

archbishop , bishop , Catholic priest

James P. Keleher, archbishop emeritus. Member of Midwest Association Theological Schools, National Catholic Education Association (seminary department).


James Keleher was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, to James and Rita (née Cullinane) Keleher. His mother was born in County Kerry, Ireland, and came to Chicago in the 1920s, later abandoning her occupation as a registered nurse to raise her children. His father was a salesman for Will & Baumer Candle Company, a liturgical candle manufacturer.


Bachelor, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, 1954. Department of Science and Technology, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, 1961. Licentiate in Sacred Theology, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, 1968.

Master of Arts in Educational Administration, Loyola University, Chicago, 1967. Doctor of Philosophy, Gregorian University, Rome.


He served as Bishop of Belleville (1984-1993) and Archbishop of Kansas City (1993-2005). He belonged to St. Felicitas Church, and briefly considered a career as a firefighter as child. At age 26, Keleher was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Samuel Stritch on April 12, 1958.

He then continued his studies at Mundelein until 1962, when he obtained a Doctorate in Sacred Theology with a dissertation on the writings of St. Augustine. In 1962 he was named an associate pastor at St. Henry's Church in the Rogers Park section of Chicago. In addition to his pastoral duties, Keleher was academic dean and teacher of religion and social studies at Quigley North from 1966 to 1969.

He then served as dean of formation at Niles College (1969-1972) and at Mundelein Seminary (1972-1975), and as rector of Quigley South (1975-1978). During this period, he also furthered his studies in spiritual theology at Rome. In 1978 he was named president and rector of Mundelein Seminary, where he also served as an associate professor of systematic theology.

On October 23, 1984, Keleher was appointed the sixth Bishop of Belleville by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following December 11 from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, with Bishops William Michael Cosgrove and Thomas Joseph Murphy serving as co-consecrators. Following the retirement of Archbishop Ignatius Jerome Strecker, Keleher was named the third Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, on June 28, 1993. He was installed at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on the following September 8.

After eleven years as archbishop, he resigned on January 15, 2005.


In addition to his studies, he served as chaplain and confessor to the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.


Member of Midwest Association Theological Schools, National Catholic Education Association (seminary department).