Daniel Kelly (MA, Theology, ‘20) lives in rural Mora County, New Mexico, on a small farm where he raises livestock and chickens, goats, and peacocks. Married to a second grade teacher, he has a beautiful and intelligent stepdaughter, and he and his wife are expecting a son in March. A professor at Luna Community College, Daniel is using his theological education to teach a course on The History of Christian Thought. He also teaches a continuing faith formation class at his parish and along with his wife has been placed in charge of the local Newman Center. “Pray for us!!,” he says. “It is so weird with the COVID restrictions.”
Raised in a household that believed in a philosophically sophisticated form of Hinduism, Daniel was attracted to Catholicism in his late teens by Catholic acquaintances and religious. At first, it seemed to him then that Jesus fit in perfectly with the Hindu schema of thought that he had been taught but that Catholicism was intellectually unsophisticated. However, that changed through his love of reading.
“Then, as now, I am completely unable to resist reading any book near me,” Daniel says. An avid reader, delving deeply into the Fantasy genre works of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien moved him toward the Catholic Faith. He particularly remembers receiving a copy of In Defense of Sanity, the collection of G.K. Chesterton’s essays. “Chesterton completely demolished my preconceptions that Catholicism was unsophisticated and laid the groundwork for all my Catholic thinking,” he says. “Chesterton was obviously superior to any of the other writers I had read, and his explanations of Catholic thought were clear and thought provoking. He led me to purposely seek out and read other Catholic writers, and I soon came to see that the Catholic thought system really is in a league of its own.”
G.K. Chesterton–and his grandmother, who had been raised a Seventh day Adventist—led him to read C.S. Lewis’ works on Christianity. “It was refreshing to see that he had met Hindu philosophy on the way to Christianity, and it had almost detained him as well. So C.S. Lewis and Chesterton really built my understanding of Christianity,” Daniel says. “Tolkien soon came to my aid as well. I was prepared to completely cut off contact with my roots of fantasy reading, which had had an enormous impact on the formation of my world view, but I read Tolkien’s Tree and Leaf at this time, and I saw that I didn’t have to discard the good of the literature I had consumed. Indeed, novels can and should be a positive good for Catholic minds.”
As a convert, Daniel pursued an MA degree in Theology because he wanted to deepen his knowledge of the faith and teach. With CDU, he was able to continue to work for his archdiocese while earning his degree. Daniel has served as director of religious education and parish secretary of St. Gertrude the Great, his home parish, and continues to serve in a variety of ministries there and in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
“I came to CDU because I loved–and love–academia and growing academically, but I was tired of the abrasive effects of pagans and heretics in the academic world I had been in,” he says, adding, “although I loved, and still love, many of them dearly.” “CDU certainly allowed me to grow in this regard. I especially liked my Philosophy (and English) classes with Fr. Bramwell and Dr. Urbanczyk. Never have I been pushed harder to clarify my thoughts, and never has my brain grown more–not even in stats class.”
“CDU has benefited me in so many ways, it is impossible to count them all,” Daniel says. “I have grown in my faith, in my knowledge, and in my intelligence.”
“I know for myself that much of the good of my upbringing came from voraciously reading fiction–and maybe all of the bad,” Daniel says. “If we want to capture the hearts and minds of the youth, it needs to be the way Chesterton and Tolkien did, through the popular culture.”
Daniel’s MA thesis, “My Very Self You Know: A Personalist Examination of Vocation,” was published in the Easter 2020 issue of Digital Continent.