An Interview with Father John Boivin

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.




Dr. Knight: Would you tell us how your priesthood has evolved over the time you have served Jesus Christ….from the seminary to now.


Father Boivin: I graduated from St. Basil Grade School and with 9 other classmates attended Quigley Seminary (now on the campus of St. Rita High School). The seminary system continued after high school with 4 years at Loyola University Chicago (a bachelor degree in English) followed by 4 years at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein (a Master’s degree in Theology). My home parish was St. Rene Goupil, west of Midway airport.


Forty-two years a priest. Changes happen with me as an individual and changes happen in our culture. The Church is always there with wisdom and strength to guide both the individual and the community.


Each October, Holy Name Cathedral. parish invites participants in the annual Chicago Marathon to join us for a blessing at Mass the night before. 45,000+ runners sign up for the 26.2 mile run and 300 to 400 attend our Mass. An emphasis is that most of their time running the next day is a time to be alone with the Lord, for Him to speak to them. After a blessing for their safety and spiritual enhancement, each runner is given a wristband to be worn the next day. The Mass is followed by a pasta dinner in our parish center.


Dr. Knight: Your devotion to Holy Name Cathedral has inspired many believers. What do you attribute this long term devotion to Holy Name Cathedral.

Father Boivin: It is most unusual for an associate pastor to be assigned to a parish for more than the customary 5 to 6 years. At the time I would have been transferred, I was diagnosed with vision problems that required 8 surgeries. With the limitations that followed, it was more realistic for me to remain in a setting like Holy Name Cathedral where I can walk to most every place I need to go: the hospital, the nursing home, parishioner’s homes, stores, etc.


Dr. Knight: You have taken people from HNC on pilgrimages. What one or two do you like the best? Father Boivin: Pilgrimages are significant opportunities for us to deepen our faith in God and to experience how God has revealed Himself to people in other countries. Starting in 2002, I have accompanied parishioners to Italy (Rome, Assisi, Sienam Florence), France (Paris, Lourdes, LaSalette, Lisieux), Portugal (Fatima), Croatia and Macedonia (Medjigorie), the Czech Republis (Santo Nino), Poland (Czechtowhowa), Germany (Oberamagau) as well as Hungry, Austria, Spain, Greece, Turkey. Be it Marian apparitions or Saints’shrines, each site and each country is inspiring and enriching. So, dear reader, have you gone on a pilgrimage?


Dr. Knight: Your devotion to helping the poor and disenfranchised is above and beyond what would ever be expected from a person. What motivates you to do this work?


Father Boivin: Matthew 25: Jesus gives us the question that will be asked on the Day of Judgment, sort of the final exam of life. What did you do for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked, the stranger and the prisoner? The answer to this question is what separates the sheep from the goats, the blessed from the cursed. And it is not good enough that we occasionally respond to people with these realities; it is expected for Christians that this be a lifestyle.

For 12 years, our parish Human Concerns Commission has been active in feeding 210 guests each Thursday and Friday evening. Again under the leadership of this commission, an IRS approved program trains our volunteers to file income taxes free for people earning less than $50,000. Throughout the school year, each of 250 students of St. Malachy Grade School is provided with a bag of 6 to 7 grocery items as weekend supplemental nutrition. Again, we partner with a Catholic Grade School and an all-girls Catholic High School to supply school materials each year.


It is always good to keep in mind that this is not only about money. It can also be about time and respect. Not overlooking the needs of others and responding with compassion are the common denominators


Dr. Knight: After Communion you say the prayer ”What could I return to the Lord for all He has given me….” What inspires that prayer?

Father Boivin: What shall I ever return to the Lord for all that has been given to me? I will take this cup and call upon His holy Name.” Psalm 116.


When I was an altar boy, our worship was in Latin. Throughout my high school years (those during and following the Vatican Council), the transition from Latin to English took place. As priests prayed this prayer softly in Latin just before they drank from the consecrated chalice, during that transition some priests also prayed it softly in English. I was inspired by them. In brief, the theology behind it is this. The ‘cup’ represents God’s portion given to me, God’s plan for my life. How I thank God for all that has been given to me is to be obedient and accepting of His Plan, His Will.


Dr. Knight: How do the other priests at HNC or other places inspire you?

Father Boivin: Holy Name is blessed with 10 ordained men including our Cardinal. Their years of service range from 4 years to 62 years. They have various ethnic backgrounds and a wide range of educational and ministerial experiences. Their commitment to doing what God and the Church are asking them to do at this time is inspiring and effective.


Dr. Knight: You inspire the parishioners with stories of the saints. Do you have a favorite saint?

Father Boivin: The Saints are women and men who have lived since the days of Jesus and through the 20th century. The have lived the Gospel in such a way that the Church holds them up as role models of faith for us. Their stories are filled with sin and holiness, heroic virtue, love beyond measure, attentiveness to God’s voice and peoples’ needs. There is so much they can teach us! And the saints have the power of intercession to pray for us before God’s throne. Since I have visited many of their shrines and collected many of their medals, I depend upon there intercession daily in m ministry. Two quick examples: when I preach, I often carry in my pocket a medal of St. Anthony of Padua whose tongue inspired and converted many souls. When speaking to an engaged couple, I carry the medal of STS. Louis and Zeelie Martin the parents of St. Therese, the Little Flower. They are the first couple canonized together, and are a role model for the vocation of marriage.


Dr. Knight: What other issues do you have as a priority for our work as a society?

Father Boivin: This is a classic debate. Am I a Catholic who happens to be an American or am I an American who happens to be Catholic? What is my primary identity? Which reality shapes my view of the world and how to respond to the issues of the world? Religion today is not seen as important to many people in the western world. They have relied so much on their own philosophies and politics; but where has this gotten us? are we happy with the world and our lives? Are we our best selves?

In creation, the Lord God put order where there was chaos. In Genesis, God made each person in the divine image, and as St. John tells us, that image is love as Jesus taught and role-modeled love. If the commandment of Jesus is to love one another as he loved us, wouldn’t that so redesign the world, its resources and attitudes that realities of poverty and prejudice and greed and violence would be eliminated? We have nothing to lose (and all to be gained) by giving God’s way a chance.


Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for your devotion and dedication to Holy Name Cathedral and all the wonderful ways you call us to be with the Lord and serve Him.

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