Msgr. Richard J. Skelly, 89, of Aston, a high school teacher and later a pastor emeritus in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, died in his sleep Thursday, Jan. 26, of a myocardial infarction at St. Joseph's Catholic Church Rectory, Aston.
Msgr. Skelly had a long academic career before becoming pastor at a series of churches in the Philadelphia suburbs. The last of these was Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Morton, where he was credited with overseeing the building of the church and rectory.
The Rev. Robert Vogan, a colleague at St. Joseph's in Aston, remembered the monsignor as patient and even-tempered. "I lived with him for 18 years and never saw him angry," Vogan said. "He was kind and good to the people."
Born in Norristown, Msgr. Skelly was the son of Daniel A. Skelly and Agnes M. Powers. After graduating from West Catholic High School for Boys, he entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and was ordained on May 8, 1954.
Early in his career, he was a teacher at St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia and Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill. His subjects were biology and religion. From 1958 to 1981, Msgr. Skelly taught those same subjects at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote.
He lived at Seven Dolors Parish in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, and during the summer served as chaplain at Villa Maria by-the-Sea, a spiritual retreat house in Stone Harbor, N.J., for the nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
An athletic man who loved outdoor activities, Msgr. Skelly also had an administrative side. He was athletic director and chairman of the board of directors of the Catholic League, as well as chairman of the Interleague Athletic Commission, and sat on the Mayor's Committee for Sports.
In 1981, Msgr. Skelly became pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Cheltenham. He also was appointed to the Archdiocese Building Committee, which he later chaired.
In 1988, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. He served there until retiring in 2003 as pastor emeritus.
On May 29, 1991, Msgr. Skelly was named honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II. The citation recognizes extraordinary service to the church.
In July 1991, he was the homilist at the Funeral Mass of former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, with whom he was friendly.
Msgr. Skelly was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus. In 2015, he was named to the Bishop McDevitt Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his sisters, Rosemary S. Backus and JoAnne S. Dougherty; brothers William and Daniel; and nieces and nephews.
There will be a Reception of the Body at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, followed by a viewing and a parish Mass at 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 2130 Franklin Ave., Morton.
A second viewing starting at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 3, will be followed by an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Joseph Church, 3255 Concord Rd., Aston. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will officiate, aided by Vogan and the Rev. Anthony DiGuglielmo. The Rev. Kevin Murray will give the homily. Interment will be Friday afternoon at St. Patrick Cemetery, Norristown.