Dr. Joan Marie Kelly, 73

WESTPORT—Joan Marie Kelly, age 73, died at her home in Westport on Friday, May 5, 2023.

A lifelong Catholic, Joan was a pioneer in faith formation in the Diocese of Bridgeport, who was devoted to her faith and shared her extraordinary gifts as a scholar, teacher, and lecturer with all age groups.

Born in Taunton, Mass., on June 8, 1949, Joan was one of two daughters of Massachusetts State Police Adjutant Major John J. Kelly, and his wife, Agnes, both deceased.

Joan graduated from St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn. (now the University of Saint Joseph) and received a master’s degree in Theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington and a doctorate from the Graduate Theological Foundation at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

“For those of us blessed to have her in our lives, she was a friend, a colleague, and a staunch defender of the faith. She was the consummate Catholic teacher, living the Gospel, spreading the faith with her smile, quick wit, and endless charm. Even in her later years, Joan was in demand as a retreat leader and presenter,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, Director of The Institute for Catholic Formation of the diocese.

For several years she served as the Director of Religious Education at St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield. As the Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Bridgeport, she oversaw the religious education programs of young people and converts to the Catholic faith in 88 parishes across Fairfield County. Countless priests and deacons are indebted to Joan for her classes in the diocese’s deacon formation program, as well as the theological formation program for seminarians at the former St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford. In recognition of her commitment to the teaching mission of the Catholic Church, Joan received the Papal Cross (Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice) from Pope St. John Paul II, the Holy See’s highest honor for the laity.

In recent years, Joan was a professor in the Catholic Studies Department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, where she taught Biblical Studies (Introduction to the New Testament) and Great Books of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. She consistently earned high marks from her students for her enthusiasm, kindness, and commitment to their learning and success.

Joan is survived by her sister, Mary A. Vasile, and her husband, James, of Alexandria, Va. and many loving cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday May 16, 2023, at St. Theresa Parish, 5301 Main Street Trumbull, CT, at 11 AM. The funeral can be livestreamed by visiting and clicking the “livestream” banner.

Interment will be at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Anthony Shrine, 100 Arch Street, Boston, MA 02110.