Editor’s note: Throwback Thursday is the name of a weekly social media posting theme that users participate in as part of a very general “throwback” activity for posting content. In this case, the “throwback” theme can pertain to basically anything that happened in the past. MC is currently updating our Dictionary of Biographies so from time to time we will bring you a Throwback Thursday piece on one of our confreres.
By MC Havey, Archivist
Fr. Joseph Anthony Boyle was the oldest child of four. He grew up in Regina where the family moved after his birth in Upper State New York. His father had travelled to Western Canada as a labourer for the Harvest Excursion in 1907 and on his return stopped in Regina to help take the year’s crop to elevator at Govan, SK. Later when the Boyles settled in Regina, they lived near Holy Rosary Cathedral and met Fr. George Daly when the Redemptorist pastor (1916-1918) knocked on their door, asking if there were any Catholics. Joe’s mother Helen replied, “Dear, we are all Catholics.”
Fr. Daly spotted a vocation in Joe, one of the altar servers at the cathedral. After graduating from high school, Joe attended Campion College, Regina for a year before leaving for St. Mary’s College, Brockville with a friend in 1924. For two years (1927-1929), Joseph and his younger brother Edward were together at the college.
Upon graduation, Joseph entered Novitiate in Saint John under Fr. Peter Costello, professing first vows on August 2, 1930. Seminary studies were held at the temporary site at St. Ann’s, Montreal (1930-1931) before St. Alphonsus seminary was opened in Woodstock, where he was ordained by Bishop John Thomas Kidd on June 23, 1935.
With Fr. Leo Sexsmith as preacher, Fr. Boyle celebrated his first Solemn High Mass on June 30th in his home parish of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Regina. Two days later, he made arrangements with the Sisters of Service to celebrate a private Mass in their house chapel, near the cathedral. In addition to the Sisters, 13 guests were present, including his parents, his sister Kathleen, his seminarian brother Edward and Fr. Joseph Owens, who would be a life-long confidant. All stayed for breakfast.
Tall and lanky, Fr. Boyle became a recognizable figure for the next 60 years in the outmissions looking after small churches and their congregations. Starting in the outmissions of St. Gerard’s, Yorkton, (1936-1940), he returned for 11 months (1945-1946) after six months of training at Second Novitiate at St. Alphonsus seminary in Woodstock.
However for almost 50 years, he served in the Nelson Diocese. While in the outmissions of Blessed Sacrament parish of Nelson, BC (1940-1945, 1946-1953, 1959-1973), he also wrote a column, entitled Along Mission Trails – Kootenay Kopy for The Prospector relating tales and reflections for 10 years from 1943. The Nelson appointments were interrupted when he was posted as superior at Sacred Heart parish, Williams Lake (1953-1959).
The Nelson years were well-remembered as was his Volkswagen Beetle travelling the rocky roads in the pioneer days. Naomi Miller of Wasa, BC remembered Father Boyle on his knees playing marbles with children or acting as umpire at baseball games. “If we ever went to the Kaslo Hospital, one could tell if Fr. Boyle had visited. Everyone was smiling. Father B told jokes and talked to all… no denominational difference.”
A pioneer in ecumenism, he had a wide circle of friends of every Christian denomination. Fr. Raymond Corriveau noted, “Fr. Joe loved people. People loved him. He was gifted (many of us would say afflicted) with wanderlust and God seemed to be able to use this in the itinerant missionary. His favourite mode of travel even into old age was hitchhiking.”
Sr. Lita Camozzi, SOS, recalled a woman’s account of Fr. Boyle coming into her kitchen, lifting the lid of the pots and saying, “Smells good, I think I’ll stay.”
After the end of an assignment (1973-1975) as chaplain of Mount St. Francis, an extended care hospital in Nelson, he requested and received a year’s sick leave. For 30 years, he tried to cope with the travelling and a bleeding ulcer for which he daily drank quarts of milk.
Following appointments in Nelson (1977-79) and St. Gerard’s, Yorkton, (1979), Fr. Boyle began a series of short-term assignments, replacing priests who were away from their parishes. During this period, he served at St. Catherine’s parish, Petersburg, Juneau, Alaska (1980); various parishes in the Nelson diocese (1981, 1982, 1986, 1987); Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Vancouver (1981); Our Lady of Foothills, Hinton, Alberta (1982-1983); and St. Jude’s parish, 100 Mile House (1986). He also returned to Williams Lake (1986, 1987, 1988-1995), where he retired.
Over the years, Fr. Boyle had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament as well as the silence of the hills and mountains.
In June 1995, a joint celebration was held for the 60th anniversary of his ordination with the Redemptorist farewell from Sacred Heart parish, Williams Lake. Afterwards, he moved to an apartment in Kelowna and later to a nursing home in August 1996. Fr. Boyle lived his last days in Trinity Centre nursing home in Penticton, where he died of pneumonia at the age of 87.
The funeral Mass was held at Holy Spirit church in Kelowna and was attended by Redemptorists and friends from Williams Lake. Edmonton-Toronto Provincial Superior Corriveau, the principal celebrant, was assisted by former Edmonton Provincial Superiors Grattan Feehan and Edward Kennedy. His body was buried in the Redemptorist plot in Holy Cross Cemetery in Edmonton.
Sr. Camozzi recalled that one of the many Williams Lake friends who had travelled to his funeral discovered that the reception afterwards was solely for the clergy. That former parishioner wrote, “I can just hear Father Boyle say, ‘the tightwads.’ ”