Published May 10, 2012
Trappist Father Malachy Corley, priest and monk of the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, died in the monastery infirmary on Friday, May 4. He was 99.
Born on July 10, 1912, as James Henry Lamar Corley, Father Corley grew up in a small town named Indian Creek, located in northeast Missouri. His father, Joseph Bernard, was a medical doctor and his mother, Sarah Christine McLeod-Corley, was a teacher.
Father Corley was baptized at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Indian Creek and graduated from Webster Groves High School. He attended St. Louis University from 1931 to 1934, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
In 1942, Father Corley was inducted into the United States Army. Soon after arrival in the Philippines in July 1945, the war came to an end. Father Corley told of serving under Strom Thurmond, who would later become governor of South Carolina. Father Corley was discharged on February 6, 1946.
On June 22, 1949, Father Corley entered Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery where his childhood friend, Father Joachim Tierney, was also a monk and one of the 20 founders of the monastery in 1944.
Father Corley professed solemn vows in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1955. He served the community as mechanic and prior. In his later years, he greeted visitors to the monastery at the welcome center and also served as a confessor to retreatants.
He was older than other novices when he arrived at the monastery.
“By that time I was over 35. In those days, I felt like Old Father Time because I was in choir with a 15-year-old novice on either side of me,” he said in a reflection about his life shortly before he turned 90.
He said the line from Psalm 27, verse 11—”Show me, O Lord, your way and lead me on a level path”—was a favorite. “Being from Missouri, I love that ‘show me’ prayer,” he said.
Father Corley said he identified with the prophet Jonah.
“It was only down in the depths that Jonah learned how to pray. And it is only when in deep in trouble that some of us learn the hard way to pray like our Lord Jesus, ‘Not my will but thine be done,’” he said.
Father Corley is survived by 12 nieces and nephews who were planning to celebrate his 100th birthday in two months at the monastery.
The burial service and the celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial was held on Tuesday, May 8, at the monastery church.
Donations may be sent in Father Corley’s memory to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers, GA 30094-4044. Please call Brother Callistus for more information at (678) 964-2237.