By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — He rests in the churchyard cemetery of St. Michael’s in Tipperary, Ireland, but for those of us who knew and loved Bishop Raymond J. Boland, a part of him will always remain in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.
And now a granite marker dedicated to Bishop Raymond Boland lies near the Tower of the Ascension in Mount Olivet Cemetery here. Savannah, Ga., Emeritus Bishop Kevin Boland, his younger brother, served as celebrant for the dedication ceremony April 9. The other Boland brothers, Tony and Frank and their wives had come from Ireland for the ceremony, and they served as readers.
Bishop Kevin said the marker, made of granite from the town in Georgia where he now lives, will be a “remembrance of Bishop Raymond in this place where he served for 21 years.” A Celtic cross is engraved at the top of the marker, and at the lower edge, it informs a reader that Bishop Raymond is buried at St. Michael’s Church in Tipperary, Ireland.
The Tower of the Ascension faces east; at its foot lies the grave of Archbishop Edwin V. O’Hara, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who died in 1956. Bishop John J. Sullivan lies at O’Hara’s feet, and the marker to Bishop Boland lies at his feet. Priests of the diocese, including Fathers Norman Rotert, Robert Cameron, Don Helfrey, Richard Carney, Msgr. Joseph Ruysser and Msgr. Richard Schumacher, and many others are buried in three rows to the right and left of the bishops.
A bagpiper piped Going Home, from the Largo of Antonin Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, The New World. It is a song of hope that death is not the end.
Following a hymn led by Bishop Kevin, and the readings for April 9, the marker was blessed by Bishop Kevin, followed by Father Patrick Rush, Father Kenneth Criqui, Father Ken Riley, Chancellor, and Father Charles Rowe, Vicar General.
After sharing a few memories of his brother, Bishop Kevin passed the microphone to several people in the audience of about 35 folks, urging them to share their memories of Bishop Raymond.
Ordained in 1957 for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., Father, later Msgr., Boland served there until being appointed and ordained second Bishop of Birmingham Al., in 1988. He was appointed fifth Bishop of this diocese in 1993, and served until 2005, when health issues demanded his retirement and he became Emeritus Bishop. Bishop Boland continued to serve this diocese in different ways until 2014. Early that year, his brother, Emeritus Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., accompanied him by ambulance plane home to Ireland where he had chosen his final resting place some years before. Bishop Raymond Boland died on Feb. 27, less than one week after his return to his homeland. In accordance with his wishes, written in 2001, he was buried at the church where his parents were married, where he was baptized, where his mother served in the altar society until her death and from where she had sent two of her four boys to the seminary to study to become missionary priests.
In his written wishes, Bishop Raymond clarified why he chose to go home instead of being buried in Kansas City: “The Diocese does not have a specific place for its bishops. Currently the former bishops of Kansas City are buried in three different cemeteries and even then not always in the same location, e.g. Hogan and Lillis. If my presence here needs to be acknowledged then I would have no objection to a plaque in a suitable place which indicates where I am, in fact, interred. Sic transit gloria mundi!”
Father Rush, pastor of Visitation parish, served as Vicar General under Bishop Raymond for 11 years. He commented that during his years here, Kansas City became his home. “Now that he is gone from here, I wish him safe home,” to heaven, he said.
Father Charles Rowe recalled that Bishop Raymond “accepted me into the seminary, ordained me and sent me to Rome. However, I don’t remember him saying anything about bringing me home! (laughter) He was a compassionate servant.”
John Massman, president of Massman Construction Co., was a longtime friend of Bishop Raymond. “He came to the Massman house for Thanksgiving. We enjoyed listening to his stories, jokes and analyses of what was going on in the Church and in the world. He is greatly missed!”
His long-time secretary, Denise Kopek, shared a few thoughts about working for Bishop Ray.
One family member recalled that “he was mean and then so kind, a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (laughter) We all loved him and really miss him!”
Bishop Kevin requested that if anyone in the audience traveled to Ireland they should pay a visit to Tipperary and Bishop Raymond and say a prayer for him at his grave.
Accompanying the Boland family and friends, the bagpiper played Amazing Grace in closing the ceremony and, still playing, walked slowly out of sight, seeming to symbolize that Bishop Raymond Boland is out of sight but not forgotten. And the marker he had no objection to and which does “Indicate where he is, in fact, interred,” will remind us of his service, his intelligence, his humor and his love for his God, his family, his homeland, this diocese and us.
As Father Rush said, Bishop Boland, safe home.