St. Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny was filled to capacity to celebrate the golden jubilee Mass for Bishop Philip Boyce on Monday night.
He was joined by the Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown and retired Bishop Seamus Hegarty.
Bishop Boyce was ordained Bishop of Raphoe on October 1, 1995 in St. Eunan’s Cathedral. His previous ministry of three decades was spent in the Carmelite Order in Rome.
Among the sixty strong clergy was Father Michael Brown who introduced the young Philip Boyce to life in the Carmelite Order.
The homily was delivered by Canon Austin Laverty who reflected on the life and times of Bishop Boyce over the past fifty years. Bishop Boyce, who was joined by his own family members, returned thanks as the ceremony concluded and said he was very appreciative of the support from the entire diocese and his own community.
In his homily Canon Laverty PP, Ardara spoke about the Book of Job in the Bible. He recalled that a professor in Maynooth had described it as “a nucleus of history with fictitious embellishments for didactic purposes.”
He said that in later years, he came to realise that there was a basis for truth in what was being told and that Jesus has used his imagination on some of the stories.
“What has that got to do with the event that we have come together this evening to celebrate?” he said.
“I’m quite sure that if you met the right story teller in Downings, he could very easily tell you that when Father Philip Boyce came home after his ordination, there were tar barrels lit all the way from Milford to Downings pier….a nucleus of history….yes to let you know that something very important had and was taking place,” he said.
Canon Laverty said that it was important to remember and to celebrate this event.
“So our first duty is to congratulate Bishop Philip as he celebrates 50 years as a priest in the service of the Lord and it’s right that we should have the opportunity to celebrate,” he said.
Canon Laverty said that Bishop Philip Boyce obtained his secondary education at Castlemartyr in County Cork. He said that he had often wondered why Bishop Boyce had joined the order of Discaled Carmelites.
“But the man responsible was a Father Michael Brown who persuaded him that Carmelite Order was the right place for him.
“He made his first profession as a member of the Carmelite order on the 19th of September 1959 - that was a major step on his faith journey - a journey that began in Baptism and that journey reached another milestone on the 17th of April 1966 when he was ordained a priest and it’s that special milestone that we are remembering and celebrating this evening.
“I’m sure he hoped to live a quiet life as a member of the Carmelite community, but once again destiny stepped in and he found himself teaching in the Teresianum in Rome and specialising in the spirituality of Cardinal Newman. But that was not to be the end of the story, because in 1995 somebody in Rome came along to him and said ‘we want you to be Bishop of Raphoe’ and that had been his destiny and his cross ever since,” he said.
He said that at the preface to the Mass of Ordination, priests are to renew, in God’s name the sacrifice of human redemption, to set before their children, Lord, the Paschal Banquet, to teach your people in charity, to nourish them with the word and to strengthen them with the Sacraments.
“That’s the CV of the priest and even more so of a Bishop and that’s what he was to give an account of to the Lord on the day of judgment and that’s scary, not the kind of job description that is guaranteed to give you overly peaceful sleep,” he said.
He told those gathered that Bishop Boyce has spent the last fifty years trying to follow the real Jesus and that he was sure that, at times, this may have been a difficult task.
“But let’s leave Calvary to the one side just for today and celebrate Resurrection, celebrate Easter, celebrate fifty years of service to the Lord and to His Church and let's say this evening, ’well done, good and faithful servant. You can say with St. Paul, I have run the race. I have kept the faith’ and may you have many more years of health and contentment in the service of the Lord, and we hope that it won’t be very long until you can relax and enjoy your retirement and leave that that particular cross to someone else,” he concluded.
Parish of Mevagh
A large crowd from the parish of Mevagh attended as well as members of the congregation from every parish in the diocese and further afield. A native of Downings, Bishop Boyce harbours a great love for the Irish language.
He was born on January 25th, 1940. He was educated at Derryhassen school and later at Castlemartyr Carmelite College, Co. Cork. He joined the noviciate of the Discaled Carmelites in Loughrea, County Galway, making his first profession in 1959. Having completed philosophical studies in Dublin, he studied theology at the Teresianum in Rome, where he was ordained on April 17, 1966.
During his twenty years on the teaching staff of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of the Carmelites in Rome, he taught spirituality and dogmatic theology, and for many years was engaged in the work of formation of students preparing for the priesthood or doing postgraduate studies.
Reflecting on his fifty years of dedicated ministry, Bishop Boyce thanked the people of the diocese for their support throughout his time as Bishop. He urged any young man who would like to join the priesthood to do so without trepidation.
He is wished health, peace and happiness in his ministry.