About SSM

The Timeline

  • 1860

    Herbert Hamilton Kelly born.

  • 1891

    Work of the ‘Corean Missionary Brotherhood’ begins at 99 Vassall Road, Kennington, England, to train priests for work in Australia and overseas.

  • 1892

    Kelly drafts (what would later become) SSM’s Principles, expressing the ethos of SSM. At Michaelmas, Corean Missionary Brotherhood becomes Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM).

  • 1893

    Constitution decreed, providing SSM’s structure.

  • 1896

    The Bishop of Rochester ES Talbot (who became first Visitor), formally recognises SSM.

  • 1897

    SSM outgrows Vassall Road and moves to Mildenhall in Suffolk Diocesan Bishop Ely gives SSM formal recognition as a Theological and Missionary College .

  • 1902

    Missionary work begins in schools in South Africa, at Modderpoort in the Orange Free State. SSM Quarterly Paper produced. Herbert Kelly visits South Africa; his brother, Alfred Kelly being the first Provincial.

  • 1903

    Kelham Hall, Newark, Nottinghamshire, purchased as new SSM home.

  • 1904

    SSM officially withdraws from Korea.

  • 1905

    Great Chapter Meeting.

  • 1908

    Kelly’s Idea in the Working published.

  • 1909

    97 men in residence at Kelham (77 students, 11 lay brothers and nine teaching staff).

  • 1910

    General Chapter Meeting. Kelly resigns as Director. Father David Jenks appointed.

  • 1912

    Young SSM trained priests serve in North Queensland, Australia.

  • 1913

    Kelly moves to Japan, as Professor of Apologetical Theology.

  • 1914

    The Great War—121 Kelham men served; 25 were killed, Kelham requisitioned.

  • 1917

    Kelly visits Australia.

  • 1919

    Kelly returns to Kelham.

  • 1923

    First SSM Bishop—Father Standly Haynes (Bloomfontein South Africa).

  • 1925

    Reginal Halse consecrated as Bishop of Riverina in New South Wales.

  • 1928

    New chapel at Kelham completed.

  • 1928

    Jagger Rood installed. The Gospel of God by Father Herbert Kelly published.

  • 1938

    BBC broadcast of service at Kelham Chapel.

  • 1940

    Second World War—94 students at Kelham, nine Kelham men killed .

  • 1943

    Invite from Bishop of Adelaide to establish SSM in Australia.

  • 1947

    Theological College opens at St Michael’s House, Mt Lofty, South Australia.

  • 1950

    Death of founder Father Herbert Kelly.

  • 1954

    Racial apartheid policy implemented in South Africa. Modderpoort teacher training college closes. Modderpoort School closes.

  • 1960

    80 students enrolled at Kelham.

  • 1973

    Kelham Hall closes (as a result of Butler Act)/SSM at four UK priories— Nottingham, Sheffield, (out of) Lancaster & Willen at Milton Keynes.

  • 1976

    SSM establishes at Masethe in Southern Africa.

  • 1978

    New Australian Priory established at St John’s Church, Halifax Street, Adelaide.

  • 1983

    St Michael’s House destroyed in Ash Wednesday bushfires. SSM Priory opens, Maseru, Lesotho, Southern Africa.

  • 1985

    Digger’s Rest (St Michael’s Priory) establishes in Victoria.

  • 1989

    Work ceases at Modderpoort/Durham Priory opens in England .

  • 1997

    European Provincial Office at the Well at Willen Priory.

  • 1998

    Great Chapter Meeting in Cape Town.

  • 1999

    First women professed at Durham.

  • 2004

    New Province of Southern Africa launched.

  • 2007

    The Well and Willen Priory becomes a work of SSM.

  • 2008

    New Priory built in Maseru, Lesotho.

  • 2012

    2012 Provincials meet in London. L Christopher Myers, Michael Lapsley & Colin Griffiths.


About the timeline

This timeline was put together with the help of Sister Margaret Dewey, a long-time chronicler of the SSM story.

The SSM Chronicle, prepared by Margaret when she was residing in the United Kingdom, was intended as a sort of ‘mini-archive’ and was distributed at the 1981 Great Chapter. Margaret wrote of the chronicle: ‘It is not a narrative to be read straight through, but a more-or less chronological collection of material to be dipped into, using the fairly detailed table of contents.

Margaret also produced three supplements: the first, SSM Chronicle SSM Chronicle Supplement 1989–1996 takes up where the first left off; the second is SSM Chronicle Supplement 1996–1999; and the third, SSM Chronicle Supplement 1999-2004, concludes with the inauguration of the new Southern African Province in 2003.


SSM in brief

SSM had its beginnings in December 1890, when Father Herbert Hamilton Kelly began training ‘ordinary’ young men for the ‘Corean Missionary Brotherhood’ at Vassall Road Kennington in the United Kingdom. The Principles, drafted for the Holy Week retreat in 1892, expressed Kelly’s ideal of God-centred dedication. At Michaelmas in the same year the name changed to the Society of the Sacred Mission. Kelly drafted the Constitution in 1893, and SSM was inaugurated on 9 May.

SSM relocated to Mildenhall in 1897 and to Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire in 1903, which became head office and theological college until its closure in 1973. The college’s chapel at Kelham was famous for two things: its concrete dome (built in 1928), the second largest in England, and the Jagger Rood. Since inception, SSM has trained around 3500 men for the priesthood. Read More

Today, SSM’s three provinces are autonomous, but closely linked; and members share prayer and fellowship in a variety of educational, pastoral and community activities. The object of SSM is expressed in its motto: Ad gloriam dei in eius voluntate (To the glory of God in the doing of his will).

SSM membership comprises members who have been professed, who make promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience; other members who join fully in the life of SSM, but do not make those promises and may be married; and others who associate with SSM and become part of its life and work.

Provincials are—Australian Province: Christopher Myers (Visitor Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne); European Province: Colin Griffiths (Visitor John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford); Southern African Province Michael Lapsley (Visitor Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town).

Father Kelly

Father Kelly

  • The Principles – View pdf
  • Ad Fratres (excerpts)—To the brothers – View pdf
  • Ad Filios—To the students – View pdf
  • ‘H.K. on Vocation’ by Herbert Kelly – View pdf


SSM is not Religious. I do hold that SSM is an organisation for work. AND thereby religious, so far as we separate or devote our lives to that purpose . . . I believe that a new life might come out of average and mediocre people . . . organized.”
Father Herbert Kelly 


Father Kelly—the Idea explored


  • ‘Father Kelly and Post Modernism’ by Margaret Dewey – View pdf
  • ‘A Full Circle’ by Christopher Myers – View pdf
  • ‘Journey in the Dark’ by Dunstan McKee – View pdf
  • ‘Our SSM Theological Tradition in Today’s World’ by Hilary Greenwood – View pdf


  • An idea whose time has come? (2009) – contact for publication
  • An idea still working (1980)
  • Father Kelly and the idea of theology (2002) – contact for publication
  • Myers, CJ 1991, ‘A vision of catholicity for Japan in the mid-twentieth century’. Master of Arts (Asian Studies) thesis, Australian National University – contact for publication
  • Jones, AW. 1971. ‘Herbet Hamilton Kelly SSM 1860-1950 : A study in failure’, Doctoral thesis, University of Nottingham – contact for publication