Retirement plans put on hold when health issues surfaced

Bishop Boland anoints an attendee at an Anointing Mass, sponsored by the Knights of Malta, Federal Association. The joint diocesan Mass is held annually for the sick, the elderly and those anticipating surgery. (Key file photo)

Bishop Boland anoints an attendee at an Anointing Mass, sponsored by the Knights of Malta, Federal Association. The joint diocesan Mass is held annually for the sick, the elderly and those anticipating surgery. (Key file photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — Yes, there is life after retirement, and for Emeritus Bishop Raymond J. Boland, it’s been a busy life.

In a Catholic Key article dated June 24, 2005, about his retirement, Bishop Boland summed up his 12 years as bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, saying, “I am very gratified. It has been a very constructive time. I am pleased that there was an enormous amount of unity among the clergy and the people in sponsoring so many projects.”

He passed the crozier of his office to his successor, Bishop Robert W. Finn, on May 24, 2005, but not his love for and dedication to the priesthood. The wry Irish humor and never-say-never attitude that made the now 81-year-old bishop popular in Northwest Missouri are still very much in evidence.

Lately, medical issues have been at the forefront, and as he tells it — most of the year 2012 was spent in the search of and discovery of the cancer affecting his right vocal cord, his second bout with cancer. In 1997, Bishop Boland was diagnosed with colon cancer, which was surgically excised with part of his colon, leaving him, as the late Bishop John J. Sullivan, his predecessor, quipped, “a semi-colon!” The discovery of the cancerous nodule on his vocal cord was followed by surgery and over 6 weeks of radiation treatments.

He was questioned so often about the treatments that he wrote a brief overview explaining the diagnosis, the treatments and how he became a sort of “human GPS system without the satellites.” Bishop Boland wrote that the “question I was asked most often … why I was receiving so many treatments, in my case, 33. I discovered there are many answers; most of them resulting from the combined experience of oncologists over time … it is now standard procedure that many treatments with weaker doses delivered over a long period of time are more effective than a few treatments of stronger dosage delivered within a much shorter time frame. The total dose is the same but it is divided by the number of days selected for therapy over the desired time period.” (The measurement unit is called a “gray” which is the amount of radiation absorbed by one kilogram of human tissue and, of course, different amounts of radiation are needed to kill different kinds of cancer cells).

He received 33 radiation treatments, 5 per week, Monday through Friday, with weekly X-rays to monitor the treatments.

His voice, with its inimitable brogue, has slowly returned, though he remains slightly hoarse. The overview can be read on the diocesan website, Emeritus Bishop tab.

So far this year Bishop Boland has had two cataract surgeries, and matter-of-factly states, “I can see a gnat on a camel a mile away, but I can’t read very well.” Far away objects are crystal clear, but small, close up objects are less so. He is now going through eye-drop therapy and hopes that challenge diminishes in time.

As far as future medical issues are concerned, “Well, in 2012 it was my throat, this year it was my eyes. Next year my nose will probably fall off!”

Despite the cancer, the treatments and the attendant discomfort, although he said they were painless, Bishop Boland continued his work as often as possible. Chancery staff would see him in his office or walking through various departments, silently greeting people with a smile and twinkle in his eyes.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Knights of Malta, both locally and with the Federal Association,” he said. “I’ve celebrated three Pro-life Masses with them.”

Recently he celebrated the Pro-Life Mass for the Knights on Jan. 25 at Immaculate Conception Church in Washington, D.C., just before the start of the annual March for Life.

He continues to serve the sick, elderly and those anticipating surgery by participating in the annual “Anointing Mass,” sponsored by the Knights of Malta. Those who attend the Mass receive blessings from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Emeritus Archbishop James P. Keleher of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and from Bishop Robert W. Finn and Emeritus Bishop Boland of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

In October 2010, Bishop Boland was presented with the Grand Cross Pro Piis Meritis, the Grand Cross of Honor and Devotion, for his years of service to the Order of Malta, Federal Association. He served as conventual chaplain to the Knights and Dames of Malta in the Kansas City area at the request of Cardinal Archbishop James Hickey in 1994. Cardinal Hickey was then Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and principal chaplain of the Knights of Malta Federal Association, who also requested now-Emeritus Archbishop Keleher serve Knights and Dames of Malta in Kansas City, Kan., at the same time.

Both emeritus prelates were installed in their respective dioceses in 1993, and both had their requests to retire accepted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

In the letter of nomination sent to the Sovereign Council of the Order of Malta, then- Federal Association president J. Paul McNamara wrote, “Bishop Boland was instrumental in the initiation of the Annual Anointing Mass for the sick and disabled held in Kansas City every spring. He also assisted the members of that area in assuming responsibility for an annual December lunch which is held to alert the residents of the greater community to the problem of hunger in the area. Called the “souper bowl” it provides a full meal for over 400 persons annually. Bishop Boland has regularly said Mass and given homilies at ceremonies and other gatherings of Knights and Dames in the Kansas City area.

“Bishop Boland has taken a leading role in some significant ceremonies, serving as Principal Celebrant at the Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and as homilist at an Investiture Mass of the Federal Association. He has participated regularly in our Investiture Masses.”

For 10 years, he lent his name to the Bishop Boland Catholic Charities Golf Classic, which raised funds for Catholic Charities programs benefiting children and families.

Bishop Boland is no golfer. “Somebody once asked me, why do I sponsor a golf tournament? I told ‘em I’d sponsor a Tiddly Winks tournament if that would bring in enough money to help Catholic Charities because they do magnificent work. I sponsor it for the people who are going to benefit.”

Bishop Boland has also been very involved in the Apostleship of the Sea, in other words, priests serving as cruise ship chaplains. The chaplain on board a cruise ship serves a floating parish for a few weeks, he said. The chaplain celebrates Mass daily and four weekend services, including one for the crew. He also participates in interdenominational services.

The chaplain visits sickbay regularly. Bishop Boland has taken several cruises in the past few years, including one to Alaska. He said during his last two cruises serving as chaplain, he anointed several travelers as part of the Sacrament of the Sick. “There were no burials at sea, however,” he said.

On board he celebrated renewals of marriage vows, but no weddings. “That’s the captain’s job!”

Later this year, Bishop Boland plans a cruise to Kusadasi, the cruise port about 10 miles from Ephesus on the west coast of Turkey. While there he intends to visit Ephesus, to see the ruins of the 6th century Basilica of St. John, the so-called grave of St. Luke and Meryemana, Mary’s House.

His interest in Ephesus increased in the last few years as a connection between the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which Bishop Boland has called home since his installation as the diocese’s fifth bishop in 1993, and Ephesus was established.

While Jesus was dying on the cross, he looked down and saw his mother and the Apostle John standing near. He said to her, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.” And the gospel says, “from that moment John took her into his house.”

John lived in Ephesus for several years, writing his gospel. According to tradition he found a house, renovated it and moved Mary into it, where she lived with a serving maid.

The house, along with the rest of Ephesus, fell into ruin. In the late 1800s, Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancy, a Daughter of Charity living in Smyrna, Turkey, read the visions of Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, and eventually talked two Lazarist priests into following the clues to search for Mary’s’ House. They found it, and Sister Marie spent the rest of her life and much of her personal fortune to restore it.

Sister Marie was named Foundress of Mary’s House by the Catholic Church.

In 2011, Bishop Robert W. Finn accepted the charge to open the cause of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey for sainthood. The chapel in the Catholic Center’s main lobby is named the Chapel of Our Lady of Ephesus.

St. Luke, physician, disciple and companion of Paul, and author of one of the Synoptic Gospels, also has a connection to Ephesus. He was born in Antioch, studied Greek philosophy, medicine, and art in his youth. He came to Jerusalem where he came to believe in Lord Jesus. He and Cleopas met the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).

In addition to his Gospel, he also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was in Boethia when he died at the age of 84. He is the patron of the medical profession and also of artists, painters, sculptors, craft workers and lace makers.

Luke’s symbol was the bull, Ezekiel’s third beast (Ezekiel 1:10), a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial and priestly office, according to St. Irenaeus, an early Father of the Church and Bishop of Lyons, in Gaul, now France. In Ephesus, there are ruins of a circular structure described as the grave of St Luke because of the bull carved into the door.

Bishop Boland has been studying Luke’s connection to Ephesus and said he thinks the saint has a strong claim to the tomb there.

“When I was in Rome in 1976 on a 4-month sabbatical,” he said, “I learned enough Italian to keep from starving. I also learned what the Italians say about something historical that is questioned or possibly improbable: ‘legend has it.’ Well, legend has it that St. Luke’s grave is in Ephesus.”

He has been putting the finishing touches on the Boland Family Genealogy. “I’m hoping a niece or nephew will volunteer to continue it,” he said with a smile.

The work on his family genealogy was one of six projects he had given up when he became Bishop, first of Birmingham, Ala., and then of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Another was his research and study of Irish-American architect, Patrick Keely.

Keely, 1816-96, Bishop Boland explained, was from his native county, Tipperary, in Ireland, where his father was employed as a draftsman and builder and introduced the trade to his son. Keely’s experience in construction helped get him started in the U.S., following his arrival in New York City in 1842.

“I read about Keely and was fascinated,” Bishop Boland said. “He was the architect of 17 Catholic cathedrals in the eastern half of the U.S., including Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, and Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.”

A total of more than 600 Catholic churches and other institutional buildings were designed and built by Keely, as well as two in Canada, over the ensuing 50 years.

Bishop Boland noted that Keely was an admirer of Pierre Puget, a 17th century artist and architect, and he reintroduced Neo-Gothic architectural design in the second half of the 19th century.

Bishop Boland, who had considered becoming an architect before he answered the call to the priesthood, looks forward to furthering his study of Keely.

Another Irish-born-American, Bishop John J. Hogan, founding bishop of both the Diocese of St. Joseph and the Diocese of Kansas City, has been in Bishop Boland’s sights for a number of years. In June 2010, the people of St. Benedict Parish in the small southeastern Missouri town of Doniphan, about 350 miles from Kansas City, asked Irish-born Bishop Emeritus Boland to honor his predecessor by celebrating the Mass marking the 150th anniversary of both their parish and of Bishop Hogan’s bold social experiment in the nearby wilderness that collapsed in the early days of the Civil War.

The young Father Hogan, who wanted to rescue Irish settlers in St. Louis from poverty, resettled about 300 people on virgin acreage he purchased in five counties but mostly along the Oregon/Ripley County line. His plan was to set up an Irish settlement for immigrants whose background was farming and who were not afraid of hard work. It didn’t take long for the community to number in the many hundreds and thrive. Then, “the Civil War erupted and the settlement’s crops and livestock became an attractive target for both the Unionists and the Confederates, not to mention a number of non-aligned guerrilla raiding parties,” Bishop Boland said in his homily at the Mass.

“The settlement was destroyed and its inhabitants dispersed, some without a trace,” he said. “The abandoned acres soon reverted to native and the Irish Wilderness, thanks to an act of Congress in 1984, is today only remembered as a designated section of the much larger Mark Twain National Forest.”

Bishop Boland reviewed the book, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, by (photographer) Leland and (editor) Crystal Payton, also in 2010.

Bishop Boland wrote, “I was not surprised to discover that the Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, painstakingly researched and penned by Leland and Crystal Payton, won the Gold Medal for best Regional Non-Fiction in 2009. The award was richly deserved.

“Over the years one grew accustomed to reading snippets of information about the Irish Wilderness. Facts were few and there were many who doubted the existence of anything other than a fanciful name on a forestry map. The Paytons have provided a meticulously crafted manuscript which ties all the loose ends together enabling us to know why and how the Irish Wilderness settlement came to reality. It was a noble endeavor with a sad ending.

“The authors wisely allow Father Hogan, the proposer and strongest supporter of the settlement, to express his sentiments and report his observations in his own words. The book is adequately supplied with clear maps which clarify the context and it is beautifully illustrated with photographs which are a tribute to the rugged scenery of the Ozarks. This is a book for all Missourians who value their heritage. It portrays the struggles immigrant Catholics endured to preserve their Faith. For members of the clergy it highlights the demands of ministry among a constantly moving pioneering population. Those who are challenged to solve the ‘mystery’ of the book’s title should read it more than once. I recommended it highly.”

Bishop Boland once said he spent much of his time as Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph reading blueprints. Fifty-four construction projects, including 14 new churches and 14 major school renovations were completed during his tenure. His legacy of building and restoring the Church in this diocese, both physically and spiritually, is visible today. Kansas City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was renovated and restored to its 1880s beauty under his watch, as was the Cathedral of St. Joseph, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Conception, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Church in Kansas City, St. Francis Xavier Church in St. Joseph and St. Charles Borromeo Church in Kansas City. Although several parishes and schools closed or merged, a number of new churches and schools were built, churches were expanded, and a new parish established. Social service agencies expanded.

Some years ago, Bishop Boland spoke to the third grade class of St. Ann’s School in Independence about customs and traditions of ancient Ireland. One of the thank-you notes he received was from Zachery Jonas, who wrote, “…You are a lucky man to be Bishop.” Recalling that comment, Bishop Boland said, “I felt affirmed every day as a Bishop and as a priest. Yes, I am very lucky!”

He noted that two living bishops of the Diocese of Birmingham were to be present at the Mass celebrating his 25th anniversary as a Bishop, May 3, “myself and my immediate successor, Bishop David E. Foley (1994-2005).” The current ordinary, Bishop Robert J. Baker, was not able to attend.

Bishop Boland emphatically states that he has no regrets. “In this day and age, it’s probably an advantage to be a retired bishop,” he said. “But I wouldn’t change any of it. I have no regrets!”


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph