Pontifical University of the Holy Cross; Franciscan University of Steubenville
Zeal for Your House
Jeffrey Francis Kirby (born May 13, 1975) is a Catholic priest, author, church commentator and moral theologian. He is a 2016 recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and is the spirituality contributor to the Crux news site, run by veteran journalist John Allen.
Kirby is most known for his previous work in which he revolutionized the process of recruitment to the Catholic priesthood and sisterhood through contemporary social media, web design, and videography.
Currently as a moral theologian, Kirby is an expert on conscience formation, the natural moral law, and the effort to introduce moral truth within pluralistic societies.
Additionally, as an author, Kirby is regarded as an authority on spiritual theology and is sought out as a conference speaker and retreat leader throughout the United States.
Through his writings, Kirby is also recognized as an expert on The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
High School Apostolate
Catechesis and St. Peter’s Basilica
Children’s Vocation Literature
College Level Apostolate
Order of the Palmetto
Digital Formation Programs
Jeffrey Kirby was born in Killeen, Texas, while his father was stationed on Ft. Hood. He was raised in a military family, son of retired First Sergeant Alan Kirby, Jr., and Frances Kirby. One of three children, he has an older brother and younger sister, Alan III and Melanie.
Much of Kirby’s childhood was spent in West Germany, where his father served multiple tours. In 1989, with the anticipated fall of the Berlin Wall, the family returned to the United States and made South Carolina their home.
In 1994, Kirby graduated from Lower Richland High School in Hopkins, SC.
In April, 2017, the high school honored the positive effects of Kirby’s priestly ministry on society by selecting him as an inaugural inductee of its Shining Diamonds Alumni Hall of Fame. The distinction is the highest honor bestowed upon an individual by the high school.
After high school, Kirby attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He majored in history as an undergraduate, writing his senior thesis on themes relating to human dignity and the exercise of authority. Following his undergraduate studies, Kirby pursued a graduate degree in philosophy with an emphasis on human nature and the spiritual identity of the human person.
In 2017, citing his vocations work and his digital programs in Christian formation, the university selected Kirby to receive the alumni Bishop John King Mussio Award for Faithful Service to the Church.
While a student in Steubenville, Kirby enlisted in the Army National Guard and served in a Transportation Unit in the city. In 1999, he was activated for Operation New Horizons, a relief effort in Nicaragua after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch.
During his enlistment, Kirby was given several military honors. After completing his six-year enlistment, he received an Honorable Discharge from the military.
High School Apostolate:
Kirby returned to South Carolina and while applying to the seminary, taught moral theology and the New Testament at Bishop England High School in Charleston, SC, during the 2001/2002 school year.
On August 29, 2002, Bishop Robert Baker celebrated the ceremony of Candidacy to Holy Orders for Kirby at an All-School Mass at Bishop England. Immediately after the ceremony, Kirby left for seminary in Rome.
Since his time at the high school, three of Kirby’s former students have entered the seminary or convent.
In 2010, Kirby was named the Chaplain of Cardinal Newman School in Columbia, SC. In 2011, however, he was named to Bishop England High School and served a three-year term as its Chaplain. In his time at both schools, he worked to expand the Catholic identity and spirituality of the faculty and student body.
On account of these experiences with young people, Kirby has been a popular high school speaker throughout his priesthood and has been invited to speak at teen conferences, workshops, leadership camps, and other youth events.
In 2002, Kirby entered the Pontifical North American College, the American seminary in Rome.
While at the seminary, he attended the Pontifical Gregorian University and earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology and then began studies toward his License in Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and a Masters in Bioethics at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.
Catechesis and St. Peter’s Basilica:
While studying in Rome, Kirby developed a catechetical tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. He gave the tour to countless people and groups, including Sister Nirmala Joshi, MC, during the festivities surrounding the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The basilica tour led to the publication of two books: Encountering the Lord in His Holy Court: A Walk Through St. Peter’s Basilica (2009) and 101 Surprising Facts about St. Peter’s and the Vatican (2015).
In 2006, Kirby was ordained a transitional deacon in the Chapel of the Chair of St. Peter’s Basilica by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien.
In 2007, he was ordained a Catholic priest at the Columbia Metropolitan Center in Columbia, SC. In the ceremony, six priests were ordained, the largest class of ordinations for the Diocese of Charleston since 1956.
Kirby began his priesthood in a three-parish circuit helping to cover Clemson, Walhalla, and Seneca, SC.
After this three month assignment, he was sent to St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, SC. While a parochial vicar in Aiken, Kirby focused on Christian formation programs and care of the sick.
Since his time at the parish, two young men influenced by Kirby have entered the seminary.
Children’s Vocation Literature:
In 2009, Kirby began working with Peggy Wertz, the principal of St. Mary’s School in Aiken, S.C., in co-authoring a trilogy of children’s books on the different Christian vocations. The project was inspired when neither Kirby nor Wertz could find any such books among Catholic publishing resources at that time. The two paired up with illustrator Alice Judd, who shared the vision of providing such books to Catholic families, schools, and parishes.
In 2010, Becoming Father Bob was released, in 2012, Becoming Sister Mary Grace was published, and in 2016, Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Thomas was released.
Also in 2009, finishing a two-year assignment in Aiken, Kirby was sent back to Rome to complete his License in Moral Theology and his Masters in Bioethics. He completed both while focusing on the natural law and conscience formation.
While back in Rome, Kirby began his apostolate on the radio with the show, Pathways to Rome on Mediatrix Radio. The show highlighted events in the Eternal City while Kirby was a student there. The show concluded when he returned to South Carolina.
Kirby, however, anchored two other radio shows: one on faith in 2013, and another on prayer in 2015.
While still in Rome, Kirby was appointed the new Vicar of Vocations for the Diocese of Charleston, which is the priest who is responsible for finding new seminarians for a diocese as well as new young women for the convent.
In over five years as the Vicar of Vocations, Kirby became an internationally recognized expert in vocations work.
In 2011, Kirby released a strategic plan that called on all sectors of the church’s life – from elementary schools to college campus programs – to support and promote the priesthood and sisterhood.
In his plan, he outlined extensive use of social media, web design, and videography. Up until this point, these resources had not been systematically used in vocations work in most places in the United States.
In 2011, as part of the strategic plan, Kirby became the founding director of the Drexel House, a Catholic Residence for Men in downtown Charleston, SC.
The house was a community of disciples aimed at growth in faith, prayer, and virtue. It was innovative at the time since it was open to all Catholic men, and not just those who were actively discerning the priesthood.
In 2015, the Drexel House was in the immediate neighborhood of the Mother Emanuel Church shooting. The House joined the Catholic community in praying with the entire city of Charleston for peace and healing.
In 2013, Kirby authored the book, Lord, Teach Us to Pray, which is a guide on Christian discipleship and the spiritual life. The book was a summary of his work in vocations, and was hailed as a “saint’s playbook” by the National Catholic Register. Kirby was invited to speak about the book on EWTN’sBookmark with Doug Keck and on Salt and Light TV’s premier show Witness with Father Thomas Rosica. Lessons from the book have been highlighted on CatholicTV’sBlink program.
Later, in 2015, Kirby wrote the book The Life and Witness of St. Maria Goretti. The book celebrated the first visit of the saint’s body to the United States and illustrated how the young saint lived the Beatitudes. The book included a “Workshop in Holiness” segment that was intended to help readers grow in their own faith and discipleship.
In 2017, Kirby wrote the book, Kingdom of Happiness: Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life, in which he explored the biblical teachings on the Beatitudes and their application to Christian life today. The book was endorsed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and several bishops, including Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia of the Pontifical Academy of Life. It was mass marketed throughout the United States by Saint Benedict Press.
College Level Apostolate:
In 2015, while still in vocations work, Kirby was brought on as an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Belmont Abbey College outside of Charlotte, NC. He taught an initial summer course on Sacred Scripture.
In the Spring, 2017, Kirby resumed at the college by teaching two introductory courses on theology.
In the Fall of 2017, Kirby continued his adjunct teaching at Belmont Abbey College, while also digitally teaching introductory courses in theology and theological anthropology with Pontifex University.
In 2014, Kirby was accepted as a doctoral student in moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and began research on his dissertation while still in vocations work in South Carolina.
In June, 2015, Kirby concluded his term as Vicar of Vocations and returned to St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken as a Temporary Administrator.
In February, 2016, Kirby returned to Rome full-time in order to prepare for the defense of his doctoral thesis.
On June 3, 2016, Kirby sat for his doctoral defense board. During the board, his thesis, Facilitating a Program of Conscience Formation Among Medical Personnel, was accepted and he was granted the title Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD).
Order of the Palmetto:
In October, 2016, Kirby was notified that Governor Nikki Haley had selected him to receive the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor. He was chosen for the award on account of his service to local communities and young adults throughout the state.
Digital Formation Programs:
In 2015, Kirby paired up with a production team from St. Benedict Press and began work on a national Christian formation program entitled Doors of Mercy. The program was released in January, 2016, to coincide with the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis. The program was widely received and used in parishes throughout the United States.
In 2017, the program received an Excellence in Catholic Publishing Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers.
Shortly after the release of the program, a trade book was published entitled Doors of Mercy: A Journey Through Salvation History.
In 2017, the trade book received a First Place designation in the Year of Mercy category in the book awards of the Catholic Press Association.
In March, 2016, Kirby began work with St. Benedict Press and Catholic Scripture Study International on a sequel program entitled Luke: The Gospel of Mercy. In the program, Kirby provided the life application segment to biblical lessons presented by Dr. Paul Thigpen.
The program was highly acclaimed and received an Excellence in Catholic Publishing Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers in 2017.
In September, 2016, Kirby recorded a few segments on Mary, which were used in the program Queen of Heaven.
In the Spring of 2017, Kirby worked again with Dr. Paul Thigpen, St. Benedict Press, and Catholic Scripture Study International on a new program entitled, Jesus Revealed. The program taught the biblical significance of eighteen titles of Jesus Christ. In the format, Kirby again gave the life application segment to the various lessons.
In January, 2018, Kirby’s new digital program, Kingdom of Happiness: Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life, was released as a part of the #BeBlessedChallenge, which was an extensive project to have people accept the call to live the Beatitudes.
In May, 2016, while still in Rome preparing for his doctoral defense, Kirby began writing for the Crux news site. Eventually his columns became weekly and he was named the spirituality contributor.
In September, 2016, upon returning to South Carolina, Kirby began a bi-monthly Question-and-Answer column through The Catholic Miscellany, the newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston. In September, 2018, after writing the column for two years, Kirby concluded the work with the newspaper.
After completing his doctoral work in June, 2016, Kirby returned to South Carolina.
On August 15, 2016, during the Dedication Mass of the church building of the new community of Our Lady of Grace in Indian Land, SC, Bishop Robert Guglielmone announced that Kirby would serve as the parish’s first resident priest.
In addition to being named Administrator of Our Lady of Grace, Kirby was concurrently named Administrator of St. Joseph’s Church in Chester, SC. In July of 2017, due to expanding growth and pastoral needs in Indian land, St. Joseph’s Parish was reassigned to the Oratorian Fathers of Rock Hill.
On December 8, 2016, Kirby concelebrated the Establishment Mass during which the Bishop of Charleston raised Our Lady of Grace to the status of a canonical parish. In late December, 2016, the Carolina Gateway noted Kirby’s assignment in Indian Land as one of its Top Stories of 2016.
In May, 2017, Our Lady of Grace was named a pilgrimage site for the diocesan Year of Mary. The special year was announced by Bishop Robert Guglielmone in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima.
In July, 2017, Kirby celebrated his tenth anniversary of priestly ordination with the parish community in Indian Land.
On September 1, 2018, Bishop Robert Guglielmone named Kirby the Pastor of Our Lady of Grace. The appointment marked the new parish’s first canonical pastor.