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The Quintessential Good Samaritan

The Authorized Biography of John Joseph Kelly, Champion of Social Justice

Published by Post Hill Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

“Fellow healer John Kelly devoted his life to the physical, emotional, and psychological healing of the socially and racially disadvantaged. His story inspires in these troubled times.” – Deepak Chopra

John Joseph Kelly—the quintessential Good Samaritan—changed the lives of thousands of people in need, first as a devoted Catholic priest; then as a champion of the poor and a father figure to troubled minority youth; and finally, as a one-on-one mentor offering hope and guidance to hardcore San Quentin inmates.

A humble man, Kelly shared traits with St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and Mahatma Gandhi…but was embarrassed by these comparisons. Kelly was nevertheless a spiritual superstar and a role model for anyone who truly desired to make a difference in their own community, or on a grand scale, to help solve growing income inequality and racial disparity. When he died in 2019 at age ninety, thousands who knew him recalled the credo that marked his life: “We need to take what God has given us, discover it, and use it for justice and good.”

Father Kelly, tall and lanky with close cropped hair, one whose eyes displayed an alert intelligence, did exactly this when he traded his Catholic collar for a work shirt in 1979. He dropped his cassock in dramatic fashion after his final mass to pursue “justice and good” for the next forty years. Kelly showed the courage of his convictions when he struggled with Church bureaucracy, hypocrisy, internal politics, silk vestments, and processions, ultimately deciding he could help more people by being less faithful to Catholic dogma, and do more as a lay person devoted to the teachings of Jesus, Muhammad, and Krishna. Kelly then dedicated his life to inspiring others to become instrumental in helping thousands of people—many of them homeless—who were hungry and needed food, shelter, and adequate clothing.

About The Author

Long time John Kelly friend and supporter, Thomas Huening served as a county Supervisor and as San Mateo County Controller. He is a CPA, lawyer and former Navy and commercial airline pilot. To learn more, see Wikipedia, Tom Huening, or visit

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

"Fellow-healer John Kelly devoted his life to the physical, emotional and psychological healing of the socially and racially disadvantaged. His story inspires in these troubled times." 

– Deepak Chopra

"I've been blessed to know John Kelly for 45 years. He has been one of the most influential treasures in my life and in the lives of people from all the different backgrounds where he traveled. John Kelly was a collector and influencer of people because he talked, supported and loved them. [He had] limited means except for his overflowing heart of love that he extended to all who he encouraged. John changed the lives of so many people that he [was] the 'Godfather of the Peninsula.' As a priest at Serra, a private counselor, a driving force of Samaritan House and in the last chapter of his life, counselor at San Quentin Prison, John profoundly impacted the very existence of those he encountered. Speaking for myself and my family, we are extremely thankful that we were honored to be his friend." 

– Tom Brady, Sr.

"John Kelly lived his life helping Black and minority lives matter, ahead of his Christian church and ahead of the current social movement. John's life story in The Quintessential Good Samaritan is a heartfelt template of racial fairness and equity. Kelly's dedication to those in need and his compassion for all, lifted and inspired me and those around him who witnessed his extraordinary contributions to humanity." 

– Susan Manheimer, former San Mateo and Oakland, California Chief of Police

"John Kelly was a true leader, with courage and commitment to help others help themselves. As John Calvin Maxwell succinctly stated: 'To add value to others, one must first value others.' John Kelly's legacy will be his compassion; his devotion to the physical, emotional and psychological healing of the socially and racially disadvantaged is a beautiful model to guide us all through these uncertain and troubled times." 


– Warren Blank, PhD, President, CEO,

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