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Father Skelly Biography

Fr. Joseph Skelly


Fr. Joseph Aloysius Skelly, CM, was born on March 24, 1874, in Philadelphia’s Germantown section. Though he would spend 89 years in Germantown, Fr. Skelly’s biography includes the founding of CAMM and The Basilica Shrine. While each of these accomplishments made a lasting global impact, he attributed their success to Mary.

As the fourth of six children of Daniel and Elizabeth (Hanlon) Skelly, Joseph entered St. Vincent’s Seminary in 1895 and was ordained a priest in 1900. He initially served the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Baltimore, but in 1904 was appointed as prefect of St. Vincent’s. A decade later, Fr. Skelly was asked to fundraise to build a new Vincentian seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.


At this time, Fr. Skelly developed a profound interest in Catherine Labouré’s story, the French novice who encountered three apparitions of Mary in 1830. He was fascinated by the story that Mary instructed Catherine to create her Miraculous Medal. Since Fr. Skelly aspired to Mary’s Medal, he enclosed one in the envelope of his fundraising appeal.

The response was so resounding that in 1915 Fr. Skelly founded CAMM to perpetuate the Medal’s distribution. Devotion to Mary through her medal blossomed in the United States and worldwide in the ensuing years. This inspired him to create The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in 1927.


On December 8, 1930, Fr. Skelly initiated the Perpetual Novena. This weekly devotional prayer has been held at The Basilica Shrine every Monday for more than nine decades. Today, devotees from around the world can also participate virtually by tuning in live each week via YouTube or Facebook.

In the final 50 years, Fr. Skelly produced and distributed millions of Miraculous Medals and other devotionals globally. He died on July 8, 1963, at age 89 and is interred in the St. Vincent’s Seminary Crypt mere footsteps from the landmark shrine.