August 12, 2022

Deacon Marc Kellams brought justice, care together as a judge and in ministry

By Sean Gallagher

Deacon Marc KellamsDeacon Marc Kellams, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died in a traffic accident on July 29 in Indianapolis. He was 73.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on Aug. 12 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 2222 E. 3rd St., in Bloomington. Visitation at the church, starting at 11 a.m., will precede the Mass. Burial will follow at a later date at Valhalla Memorial Gardens in Bloomington.

The principal celebrant will be Archbishop Charles C. Thompson. The homilist will be Father Joseph Moriarty, rector of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

Deacon Kellams was a member of the first group of permanent deacons in the Church in central and southern Indiana when Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein ordained them on June 28, 2008, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

But long before that historic day, Deacon Kellams gave himself in service to others like a deacon in the criminal courtroom in Bloomington where he had served as a circuit court judge since 1980.

While he sentenced thousands to prison over the course of his 38 years on the bench, Deacon Kellams always wanted the best for them, said Deacon David Henn, who was ordained with Deacon Kellams and who works as an attorney.

“Anyone who appeared before Judge Kellams, whether before or after Marc’s ordination, experienced the kindness and graciousness of Deacon Kellams as well,” said Deacon Henn. “Just as Deacon Marc was so gifted at recognizing and meeting people where they were, so too was Judge Kellams, who viewed his role as a judge as an extension of his diaconal life.

“Seeking truth and justice in his work, Judge Kellams recognized the dignity of each person who came before the bench and worked to fashion a resolution that met the requirements of the law, but also served best the needs of the individual, as well as the greater community.”

In a 2018 Criterion article, Deacon Kellams reflected on the balance of human care and justice that he sought to maintain in his work as a judge.

“Few people know the hearts of a person who has committed a crime better than a criminal court judge,” he said at the time. “I deal with them on probation and when they make mistakes. … I congratulate them for successes, I let them know that I care about them as people, and I want them to be successful.”

After Deacon Kellams retired as a judge in 2018, he continued his care for incarcerated people by serving as the archdiocesan coordinator for corrections ministry.

That’s when David Liebel, director of religious services for the Indiana Department of Corrections, met Deacon Kellams and soon came to know that he stood out among those who work in the judicial system.

“It’s fairly easy in criminal justice to become cynical,” said Liebel. “But he always had an optimism. But it wasn’t pie in the sky. For him, it was that God reigns and there’s hope for people.”

The care and professionalism with which Deacon Kellams approached his work as a judge in part led him, who was a Republican, to be re-elected several times in heavily Democratic Monroe County.

Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan vicar general, experienced how well-respected Deacon Kellams was in Bloomington when the two ministered together from 2007-11 when Msgr. Stumpf served as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish.

“He was one of those people that everyone knew,” said Msgr. Stumpf. “You couldn’t go out to dinner or lunch with him where there wasn’t a number of people coming up to the table to speak to him. He was highly respected in the community and in the parish.”

Deacon Kellams’ ties to many people and his leadership abilities led him to reorganize ministry to the homebound at St. Charles.

“It really took off under his leadership,” Msgr. Stumpf said.

The deep faith that Deacon Kellams brought to the courtroom, to parish ministry and to leading corrections ministry in the archdiocese was put to the test in 2009 when his daughter Amy died of cancer at age 38.

He preached the homily at her funeral.

“It was very moving and powerful,” recalled Msgr. Stumpf. “You sat there and wondered how a dad could stand up and do this.

“It was a very uplifting homily. It drew on his faith and helped us to draw on our faith in the midst of something that you couldn’t explain and was extremely painful and tragic. God was there and our faith was something that we could lean on.”

At the same time, Msgr. Stumpf’s mind quickly turns to humor when he recalls Deacon Kellams.

“He loved to laugh and could make you laugh,” Msgr. Stumpf said. “He could see the humor in lots of difficult situations. One of things I remember most about him is that he was always smiling. It was a way of spreading joy.”

“Deacon Marc personified the best in diaconal ministry,” said Deacon Henn. “The peace and kindness he brought to all, in service to all, both professionally and in ministry, as a servant offering himself to others in the name of Jesus Christ, is a shining example of authentic Catholicity.

“We would all do well to learn from Marc’s example and try to emulate Marc in our daily lives.”

Marc Reed Kellams was born on May 4, 1949, in Bloomington to the late Armal and Frances Kellams. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Deacon Kellams also graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the Indiana University Maurer Law School.

In addition to serving as a circuit court judge in Bloomington, Deacon Kellams also taught a trial and advocacy class at the Indiana University Maurer Law School for 42 years.

Deacon Kellams served on the board of the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program of the Indiana State Bar Association and the Indiana Supreme Court, which aids lawyers, judges and law students struggling with mental illness, addiction and depression. He served as chair of the board of overseers of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and was a past president of the Indiana Judges Association.

After being ordained a deacon in 2008, Deacon Kellams served at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington and in hospitals and nursing homes in Monroe County from 2008-2020. In 2019, he began service as archdiocesan coordinator of corrections ministry. A year later, he also began ministry at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood while continuing as coordinator of corrections ministry. He was serving in both of these ministries at the time of his death.

Surviving are his wife of 53 years, Christina (Fox) Kellams, his daughters Sarah Lippman of Montclair, N.J., and Katherine Kellams of Bloomington, and eight grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (www.courts.in.gov/jlap), Saint Meinrad Archabbey (www.saintmeinrad.org), Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology (www.saintmeinrad.edu), St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington (www.stcharlesbloomington.org) or SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood (www.ss-fc.org). †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!