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Augustinian Father Keller had ‘immense impact’

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Father John D. Keller, OSA

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SAN DIEGO — Father John D. Keller, a member of the Order of St. Augustine, died Jan. 26 at Nazareth House in San Diego after a few months of failing health.

He was 86.

Born in Brodhead, Wisconsin, he moved to La Mesa with his family after the seventh grade. He attended Blessed Sacrament School in San Diego for eighth grade, followed by four years at St. Augustine High School, or Saints, where he first encountered the Augustinians.

After graduating from high school in 1955, he began formation as an Augustinian religious. He professed first vows in 1956.

He attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania and did his theological studies at the Collegio Santa Monica in Rome. He professed solemn vows in 1959, and was ordained a priest in Rome on March 14, 1964.

Father Keller’s first assignment was as a teacher at St. Augustine High School in San Diego, where he would go on to serve twice more, the last time in the roles of principal and president between 2001 and 2006. Other local assignments included six years as director of spiritual ministry at the University of San Diego.

“Father Keller was a faith-filled, self-sacrificing and gifted member of the Augustinian community here in San Diego, and he contributed immensely and humbly to the life of our local Church,” Cardinal Robert W. McElroy said.

The cardinal added that, through his ministry, he “emblazoned his powerful and caring priestly imprint on a wide swath of our diocese.”

Augustinian Father Gary Sanders first met Father Keller at Saints in the mid-1960s, when the former was a student and the latter a teacher there.

“He was the head of the Augustinian seminary when I first entered, and he has mentored me throughout my priesthood,” said Father Sanders. “I will miss him. I have never known a finer priest.”

James Horne, principal of St. Augustine High School, described Father Keller as “the finest administrator and thought leader I ever had the privilege to work with in Catholic education and, for those fortunate to know him, he was a better friend.”

Father Keller, who directed that his body be donated to science, is survived by his four siblings and their children.

The funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 19 at St. Patrick Church in North Park. An additional Mass celebrating Father Keller’s life was held to be held Feb. 28 at St. Augustine High School.

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