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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Patrick Boyle, Who Led St. Brendan's, Dies at 70

Msgr. Patrick Boyle on Ash Wednesday at St. Brendan’s in 1997. (J. Moss)
Editor's note: This story appears in this week's edition of the Norwood News, which is out on streets today.

By Jordan Moss

Monsignor Patrick Boyle, the folksy former pastor of St. Brendan’s Church in Norwood, died last week at the age of 70 after a battle with cancer.

Boyle, a Bronx native, spent almost 30 years at St. Brendan’s—first as a priest and then as pastor from 1987 to 2002.

Though he spent the nine years until his death as pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in the Westchester town of Rye, Norwood residents will remember him as one of their own. Forty of them packed a chartered school bus up to Resurrection for a Mass of the Holy Eucharist last Friday, the evening before the funeral Mass.

Boyle had a plain-spoken common touch. Whether he was in the pulpit or in the street, he connected with people in the same low-key but meaningful way. He had a politician’s knack for remembering people’s names and everything else about them. Everyone who knew him seemed to have a story for how Boyle touched their lives.

“He was known as the kind of priest you can talk to,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Mullin, an old friend, who gave the homily at the Friday Mass. Even those who didn’t live in the parish would come see him, Mullin said, adding that he was someone whose priority was helping those who came to him regardless of whether or not it was a convenient time.

“The love was in him,” Mullin said, adding that Boyle, whom he called Paddy, was an “encourager” and a “listener.”

In a 2002 interview with the Norwood News as he prepared to leave St. Brendan’s, Boyle’s love of the neighborhood shone through. “I love walking in this community,” he said. “It’s such a vibrant and enthusiastic community.” He added: “Every group that comes here — they all bring their own strengths to the community.”

Reflecting on his tenure at St. Brendan’s, Boyle stressed his interactions with people. He added that he probably performed 2,000 weddings, even more funerals and countless baptisms. “I love those experiences because they’re church events, but also family events,” he said.

Longtime parishioner Myra Goggins remembers Boyle as a priest of the streets.

“He was always out there,” she recalled. “He knew the people. He would walk around the neighborhood to see what was happening, what needed addressing.”

Boyle was a staunch advocate for the community and the Bronx. He felt the neighborhood and the borough were often ignored in favor of more affluent areas and he wasn’t afraid to tell the police or city officials exactly that.

At a community meeting in 1999 with an official of North Central Bronx Hospital, where services had been cut, Boyle linked concerns about that to the unpopular filtration plant planned for Van Cortlandt Park. “The powers that be don’t have a high regard for our community,” he said. “If the golden slipper was given out, we would not get that,” he said.

He was a fan of and participant in the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, a grassroots group founded in 1974 by Jesuits at Fordham University working with local parishes to combat the arson and housing abandonment that engulfed the south Bronx. “If it weren’t for the coalition, the story up here would be a lot different than it is today,” he said in 2002.

In 2003, Boyle returned for a ceremony naming a Head Start Center in a former synagogue on Hull Avenue in his honor. He came back to the neighborhood often and supported local institutions, like the Part of the Solution soup kitchen in Bedford Park.

“He was just so much a part of our lives,” Goggins said. “His heart was always in St. Brendan’s.”

--Jeanmarie Evelly contributed to this story.


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