John Kevin Boland was born in Monkstown, County Cork, in what was then the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland), on April 25, 1935, to John Joseph and Gertrude O’Brien Boland. He has three brothers, Frank, Tony and Raymond, who is the Bishop Emeritus of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, Missouri.
J. Kevin Boland attended Christian Brothers College in Cork for his elementary and secondary schooling and All Hallows Seminary in Dublin. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Savannah on June 14, 1959, by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin.
Father Boland’s pastoral assignments in the Diocese of Savannah were the following: Assistant Pastor, Saint Mary on the Hill, Augusta (1959-61); Associate Pastor, Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah (1961-62); Pastor, Saint Michael, Tybee Island (1967-68); Rector, Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (1970-72); Pastor, Blessed Sacrament, Savannah (1972-83) and Pastor of Saint Anne, Columbus (1983-95).
Father Boland’s specialized assignments included service as a professor at Saint John Vianney Seminary, Secretary to Bishop Thomas J. McDonough, Notary in the Diocesan Tribunal, member of the Senate of Priests (Presbyteral Council), member of the Clergy Welfare Board, Vocations Director, and Pro-Synodal Judge. He served as Diocesan Administrator from the transfer of Bishop Gerard L. Frey in November 1972 until the installation of Bishop Raymond W. Lessard in April 1973. He was Personnel Advisor for the Diocese of Savannah from 1976 to 1995. He served as Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of Savannah from 1965 to 1968, Chancellor from 1978 to 1983 and Vicar General from 1973 to 1995. He served as an ex officio member of the Presbyteral Council from 1984 to 1995, having served as its Chairman from 1985-87. He was appointed Vicar Forane (Dean) of the Savannah Deanery from 1972-1975 and of the Columbus Deanery, serving from 1987-90 and again from 1993-95. He was a member of the College of Consultors from 1984 to 1995 and Diocesan Moderator of Pacelli High School from 1994-95. Father Boland attended the summer sessions of Catholic University of America in 1962, 1963 and 1964 and Fordham University in 1987 through 1989, from which he holds a Master’s degree. In the spring of 1974, he participated in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
After ministering in the Diocese of Savannah for 36 years, Father J. Kevin Boland was appointed the thirteenth Bishop of Savannah on February 7, 1995, succeeding Bishop Raymond W. Lessard, who resigned. Bishop Boland was ordained and installed on April 18, 1995, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah. He took as his motto, Christus in Corde (“Christ in the heart”), an echo of the Breastplate of Saint Patrick: “Christ be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the heart of each who speaks to me.” Since Bishop Boland’s appointment, he has made extensive visits to the parishes and schools in the diocese. He set in motion feasibility studies for the parishes and schools of the Savannah deanery, which have resulted in the construction of a new school at Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, the transfer of Saints Peter and Paul Vietnamese Parish to Nativity Church, the merger of Most Pure Heart of Mary and Saint Anthony of Padua Parishes into one, Resurrection of Our Lord, which is about to open a new parish plant.
Under his leadership, Saint Teresa of Avila Parish relocated from Augusta to a completely new plant in Grovetown. Christ the King Mission in Pine Mountain and Saint Boniface Mission in Springfield were raised to the rank and status of parishes. Christ the King gained an entirely new plant and Saint Boniface a multipurpose building now used for worship. New churches have been dedicated in Douglas, Folkston, Kathleen, Pine Mountain, Statesboro and Warner Robins. The Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Augusta, Saint Joseph Church, Macon, and Holy Family Church, Columbus, have been restored.
Many other building projects have been undertaken during the “Boland years,” including the following: Saint Teresa Church, Albany, has been renovated and its school expanded; Saint Augustine Church in Thomasville has gained an expanded church and parish hall; Saint Anne Parish, Richmond Hill, has built a large parish hall for education and worship; Saint Francis Xavier Parish, Brunswick and Saint Mary Parish, Americus, dedicated new parish halls; Saint Peter the Apostle Parish and School in Savannah has an expanded plant; Saints Peter and Paul Parish at Nativity Church, Savannah, has a large new hall; Saint William Parish, Saint Simons Island, built a major addition to its parish center; Holy Spirit Church in Macon and Saint John the Evangelist Church, Valdosta, have doubled in size; Aquinas High School in Augusta has a new gymnasium and Mount de Sales Academy in Macon boasts a new arts center with a state-of-the-art theater; Saint Mary on the Hill School, Augusta, has been renovated and expanded; Savannah’s Notre Dame Academy moved from the old Cathedral Day School to the former Sacred Heart School, which has been completely renovated; and Saint Peter Claver School, Macon, added a pre-school building. The Savannah Social Apostolate’s building has been renovated. The first phase of the Villa Marie Center has been completed on the Isle of Hope, Savannah.
The bishop recently broke ground for new parish plants for Our Lady, Star of the Sea Parish in Saint Marys and Immaculate Conception Parish in Dublin. In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, proclaimed by Pope John Paul II, Bishop Boland commissioned a three-year preparatory program, called “The Fullness of Time,” patterned after the successful “A Heart Renewed” program a decade earlier. Special celebrations took place in all seven deaneries.
Bishop Boland was also aware that 2000 would mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Savannah in 1850 and the 100th anniversary of the rededication of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in 1900, after the fire of 1898. The cathedral itself was showing its age. After undertaking a thorough survey of the building, the bishop announced a major restoration project for the Cathedral in September 1998. The “Jubilee Campaign One Faith... One Family” sought $10 million for the restoration of the Cathedral, development of technology development and the expansion of Hispanic Ministry. The campaign proved to be a huge success, with over $15 million pledged. Bishop Boland rededicated the restored Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist on November 29, 2000, in the presence of 30 bishops (including two cardinals), abbots, 80 priests, 20 deacons and a thousand members of the Savannah diocesan family.
In order to recognize the long-term contributions of lay people to the Church’s ministry on the parish and diocesan levels, Bishop Boland instituted the Bishop Francis X. Gartland Award, named after the first Bishop of Savannah in 2000. Each pastor may recommend up to two candidates who have served in significant ways to receive a special medal on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
One of the recurring themes of Bishop Boland’s episcopate has been “One Faith...One Family.” By using this phrase throughout his years as Bishop of Savannah, he has fostered a sense of unity and belonging on the part of the 80,000 Catholics, scattered over 37,000 square miles in south Georgia. “One Faith... One Family” reflects the bishop’s commitment to stewardship on the part of all. The “One in the Spirit” events express this theme, by bringing thousands of Catholics together every other year. The Spanish-language track has been especially popular.
To serve the diocesan family, Bishop Boland has been assiduous in fostering vocations. He has requested that every parish pray the Prayer for Vocations originally instituted by Bishop McDonough, on a regular basis. Between April 1995 and June 2009, he will have ordained 32 men for the priesthood for the Diocese of Savannah, as well as 38 permanent deacons.
Bishop Boland has been a member of the Pastoral Practices Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He has previously been Region IV representative to the USCCB Administrative Committee and a member of the USCCB Communications Committee. In November 2001 he was elected chairman-elect and then chairman of the Committee on Marriage and Family Life. In November 2002, he became a member of the USCCB Budget and Finance Committee. In 2006, he became a member of the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. He was elected to the Board of Catholic Relief Services in 2006. Since January 2008, he has been a member of the Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers. He has also served on the Board of the Southeast Pastoral Institute. Bishop Boland currently serves a board member of the All Hallows Missionary College Fund. On February 28, 2008, Bishop Boland was named National Bishop Promoter of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS).
A Time of Joy
As J. Kevin Boland steps down as Bishop of Savannah, after serving the People of God in south Georgia in that capacity for 16 years (in addition to his 36 years of service to them as a priest), he will take with him a reservoir of goodwill and gratitude from the flock he tended so well for so long.
Although he will lay down the burden of administration once Father Gregory John Hartmayer is ordained the fourteenth Bishop of Savannah on October 18, Bishop Boland will remain very much in our midst, still actively present to us, still exercising his priestly and episcopal ministry, under Bishop Hartmayer’s direction, for many years to come, God willing.
One of Bishop Boland’s consistent themes as priest and bishop for the past 52 years has been the “ministry of presence.” He has reminded his priests time and time again of the value of simply being present to their people, whenever possible, at the key moments in their lives and, indeed, at festive events as well. Indeed, he seems always to have understood that “showing up” is crucial to success in life, and no one has “shown up” around the Savannah Diocese over the past half century more than J. Kevin Boland. When his brother priests commemorate significant anniversaries, he makes every effort to be there, as he does for religious brothers and sisters on similar occasions. When they die, he drops everything to preside at their funerals.
He extends his condolences personally to as many of the bereaved faithful as he can. On top of a grueling confirmation schedule, he performs weddings on occasion, and regularly celebrates Sunday Masses at the Cathedral and other parishes.
At times, he has seemed ubiquitous, possessed of incredible stamina. On the occasion of his Golden Jubilee two years ago, when he celebrated 50 years of priesthood—all spent in the Diocese of Savannah—this writer called him “indefatigable.” And this writer has watched in admiration as Bishop Boland has continued to shepherd his flock so tirelessly, despite his advancing years and despite serious surgery. The man simply can’t seem to stop himself from being present and ministering to the flock that he has tended so faithfully for so long.
As we honor Bishop Boland for his long service to us, we, his flock, take great comfort that he will not “ride off into the sunset” but will remain in our midst. We hope and pray that God will continue to bless him in his “retirement” and that we will continue to enjoy and benefit from the presence of J. Kevin Boland, Thirteenth Bishop of Savannah.
Ordained and installed as Bishop of Savannah (April 18)
Dedication of Holy Family Church, Metter
Institutes Diocesan Leadership Visitations to Seven Deaneries
Savannah Deanery Self-Study leads to merger of Blessed Sacrament and Nativity of Our Lord parishes; merger of St. Anthony of Padua Parish and Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish
First ad limina visit to Rome (June)
Diocesan pilgrimage to Rome (October)
Opens St. Frances Cabrini School in Savannah
Resurrection of our Lord Church, Savannah established
Re-dedication of $11 million Cathedral of St. John the Baptist restoration; 100th anniversary of its dedication
50th anniversary of Diocese of Savannah
Bishop Gartland Awards instituted to recognize contributions of the laity
Rededication of Saint Teresa Church, Albany
Celebrates Funeral Mass of Sister Philomena Fogarty, murdered in Pine Mountain (March)
Approved update of diocesan child sexual abuse policy first adopted in 1983 (May)
Arsonist sets fire to Cathedral altar destroying the bishop’s chair and pulpit. “What was destroyed can be replaced,” Bishop tells the parishioners at Mass. (October)
Disciples in Mission evangelization program inaugurated (October)
Dedication of Saint Teresa Avila parish Life Center, Grovetown
Second ad limina visit to Rome
Dedication of St. Patrick Church, Perry – new church in Kathleen, GA
Celebrates Funeral Mass of seminarian Darius Zurek, who died in traffic accident
One in the Spirit, a diocesan wide celebration of the Catholic faith held in Perry, Georgia
Named a member of the Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People
Elected to the Board of Catholic Relief Services
Dedication of St. Paul, Douglas (March)
Dedication of Sacred Heart Church, Warner Robins
Dedication of Christ the King Church, Pine Mountain
Named National Bishop Promoter, Apostleship of the Sea (February)
Elevates five priests to the designation of Monsignor (April)
Sends documentation of the case for beatification of five Georgia martyrs to the Vatican (April)
Second One in the Spirit gathering draws 4,000 people to Perry (November)
Dedication of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Folkston
Opens Villa Marie Center at the site of the former Camp Villa Marie, Isle of Hope
Submits letter of resignation upon 75th birthday (April)
Dedication of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, St. Marys (April)
Low enrollment forces closing of St. Michael School on Tybee Island (May)
St. Mary’s Home in Savannah closes because of reduced placement of children (June)
Diocesan schools receive joint accreditation (December)
Launches Catholics Come Home to reach out to inactive Catholics (December)
Pray for us.