A Ministry of Presence

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.

Bishop Boland speaks repeatedly of “the Diocesan family,” reflecting a sense of personal call and professional commitment to pastoring each of the 80,000 Catholics who are scattered across 37,000 square miles in South Georgia.

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.


By Father Douglas K. Clark, STL, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Port Wentworth. Father Clark was the editor of the Southern Cross for fifteen years.
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