As the decade of the 1960s neared its end, the Columban Fathers could look back on a half-century of history in the U.S.A. As such, the Columban leadership recognized the need for preservation of the history of the outstanding achievements of their Society.
Several Columbans served as archivists for the Society throughout the years, including Father Joseph P. Mullen. In 1969, Columban Father William M. Kelly transferred to the headquarters in Bellevue, Neb. from his prior posting at Milton, Mass., and the Columban leadership appointed him as archivist for the Columbans in the U.S.A. He would hold this position until his death in 1985. Father Kelly, a native of County Mayo, Ireland, and naturalized U.S. citizen, had joined the Columbans early on in their history, so he was very familiar with the Columban timeline and work. Among the many archival innovations that Father Kelly developed include a numbering system for the archives, as well as creating typed file cards with biographical information for each Columban Father. These biographical file cards have proven indispensable in retaining information about the Columbans and their achievements and careers. Columban Father Paul E. Casey, who served as U.S. Columban archivist in the later 1980s and 1990s, and wrote a seminal chronological history of the Columban Fathers in the U.S.A., built and expanded upon the work of Father Kelly. As the Columbans continue to make history around the world, Father Kelly’s legacy will help to preserve that history.