Fr. Thomas Boyle, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, and retired pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wickenburg, died March 12 of kidney failure. He was 84.
Fr. David Kelash, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Cottonwood where Fr. Boyle spent much of his retirement, was by his side. Fr. Kelash served as his longtime caregiver and friend.
Fr. Boyle was born Sept. 21, 1930 and ordained a priest June 2, 1956 for the Diocese of Tucson. His ministry took him to Tucson and Morenci then Phoenix in the 1960s. Fr. Boyle served in Baltimore, Maryland, and at St. Mary’s Parish in Chandler in the 1970s. He shepherded parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua from 1976 until 1990.
That’s where Fr. Kelash, then a seminarian, first encountered the late pastor some 26 years ago. He found himself stopping at Wickenburg’s only Catholic parish for Mass en route to the Valley from his hometown of Wenden, Arizona.
“After he met me, he said, ‘Well, this your new home,’” recalled Fr. Kelash, who became his conservator.
“He was very pastoral. He had the privilege to bring many people to the faith. He especially enjoyed giving instructions to converts as he prepared them to enter the faith,” Fr. Kelash said.
He recalled accompanying Fr. Boyle on a sick call while still a seminarian. One man was dying. Through the priest’s kind and gentle manner, Fr. Boyle brought the man back to the Church, anointed him and gave him Viaticum.
“That impressed me and helped encourage me to continue toward priesthood,” Fr. Kelash said.
It was seeing seminarians who enjoyed their life while in college at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland that got Fr. Boyle discerning his own religious vocation. Turns out he loved celebrating Mass and being with people. Fr. Kelash spoke of his “kind and generous” spirit when asked to help with confessions, leading Stations of the Cross or saying Mass at a nursing home.
Fr. Thomas Boyle
Vigil: 5-7 p.m. March 17
Funeral Mass: noon March 18
Both will be held at Immaculate Conception Parish, 700 N. Bill Gray Road in Cottonwood.
He even led Stations of the Cross two weeks before his death and concelebrated Mass with Fr. Kelash at Immaculate Conception March 1. The two became more like brothers over time. Fr. Boyle is a native of Pennsylvania and the youngest of four children and Fr. Kelash faithfully took the older priest to visit surviving relatives on the East Coast each year.
“When driving down the road, he would always tell stories of the people he knew from the towns or cities we passed through. His mind was always sharp,” Fr. Kelash said, noting his love of reading and filling in crossword puzzles.
He spent much of his retirement in Cottonwood with weekends in metro Phoenix and his heart eternally at St. Anthony of Padua. He stayed connected to parish life via the parish bulletin, which parishioners faithfully sent him weekly for 25 years.
When in Phoenix, Fr. Boyle lived with Fr. David Sanfilippo. They knew each other for 20 years through many troubling health issues.
“I never once heard him complain,” Fr. Sanfilippo said, a day after anointing Fr. Boyle’s body. “He carried the cross of suffering with grace.”
One highlight for both surviving priests was a trip they took with Fr. Boyle and a fourth priest to Italy. Fr. Boyle had a much older brother who was killed in World War II and is buried at the American cemetery overseas. They visited his gravesite.
“Fr. Boyle had wanted to visit the gravesite before he died. And seeing him pray at the grave of his brother in Florence, Italy, is something I will never forget,” Fr. Kelash said. “I can still see him standing at the grave, with his cane and red hat praying.”
Fr. Boyle loved time with his brother priests too, especially the annual Advent gathering of priests serving the Phoenix Diocese and weekly dinners in Phoenix. He often answered Fr. Kelash’s question about where to eat with a “nice place.”
“I pray now [he] gets his wish and is enjoying the ‘Nicest Place of All,’ the heavenly banquet in God’s house,” Fr. Kelash said.