by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Msgr. Boland: Catholic Charities is a wonderful supportive place for people of faith. I believe this helped him see such great people on our staff, volunteers and board members caring for the poor and living out their faith so strongly.
Dr. Knight: Could you tell us about your background, what the Southside was like, how you became a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago ?
Msgr. Boland: I was born into a wonderful supportive family and have 5 brothers. It was a wonderful place to grow up in our parish and the families in our neighborhood. This family and parish that was supportive to me was a great foundation to help me to decide to go on my studies for the priesthood.
Dr. Knight: Would you tell us something about your education? About how you chose to be a champion for the economically poor?
Msgr. Boland: I received a great education and strongly based faith values in my grammar school at St. Gall school. Then I went on to Hubbard High School and then on to St. Xavier University where I received a BA in administration. While in high school and college I worked at McDonald’s first as a staff and then a night manager. This was how I helped pay for my education. By doing this it gives you a great understanding and blessing of important education is and the sacrifice many that attend college are making. So when I went on to the seminary you never forget the sacrifices my parents made for my 5 brothers to make sure we had a grounding in our faith and the value of education.
Dr. Knight: Is there some point about your education that led you to assist the economically poor?
Msgr. Boland: In my first parish Mater Christi in North Riverside, I was touched by how many people would come to the parish for help. They felt comfortable that the Church cared for them and when they fell on hard times, they hoped and prayed they could get help. I help start a St. Vincent de Paul conference in the parish so that parishioners could help fellow parishioners that were in need of help. The Society has a great way of helping the members deepen their faith and to see Christ in the suffering. So in my next parish St. Damian I also began a conference there with the result that to this day these parish conferences continue to serve the poor and the faith of its members are deepened. During the time I was in Mater Christi I was named the Archdiocesan Spiritual Advisor for the Society which is still am privileged to be part of.
I also began being part of Catholic Charities and then went on to get my Masters of Social Work from Loyola University. After graduation, I was appointed an Associate Administrator of Catholic Charities and then a year later the Administrator and President. While going for my Masters I was still a full time parish priest again it is great when education and your passion help to giv fruit to your gifts and ministry.
Dr. Knight: What influences do you see manifest in our secular society that keep people away from Christ and His Church? Msgr. Boland:
I believe that those who attend Mass are searching for a way to get closer to God and to get help on their journey of faith. A strong welcoming parish is vital to helping people feel welcome and invite them to become more involved.
Dr. Knight: How is the Catholic Church helping young people to stay connected to Christ and His Church?
Msgr. Boland: This is an essential part of our faith. At Catholic Charities I began (15 years ago) our Junior Board to encourage young adults to deepen their faith and to help serve those in need. The Junior Board gives them a path to stay connected to the Church, deepen their faith, and serve those in need with other young committed adults.
Dr. Knight: How does the Archdiocese work on assisting the economically poor? Msgr. Boland: Catholic Charities, Maryville, Misercordia, Mercy Home are all ways the Archdiocese cares for those in need and invites others to join these ministries. Dr. Knight: You bring a sense of the Universal Church to the Chicago Archdiocese. How does this make a difference? Msgr. Boland:
I have seen from my work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and its international efforts all around the world. Catholic Charities is a part of the Caritas International which is the official response of the Church to those in poverty. When you see the large picture it gets easier to see the ministry we do is a part of a larger response of the Universal Church.
Dr. Knight: What are the most difficult responsibilities you have had in your work? What are some of the most pleasant responsibilities?
Msgr. Boland: Some of the most painful times take place when we have to close great programs that we can no longer have enough funds to support. It is a hard balancing act between living with a balanced budget and the ministry of service to the poor.
Some of the greatest moments are when a project is completed after many years in the vision and planning stages. In addition, when I go around the Archdiocese to many different events to see how many people have great concern for the economically poor and they want to help.
Dr. Knight: What mantra do you have that you would like people to remember?
Msgr. Boland: First, I hope they see the Church very alive and concerned for those around us. Second, I hope they feel pride that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese is the largest diocesan charity in the world. We serve over a million people a year in the Archdiocese, which means every 30 seconds some calls, or walks in for help. Finally, they should always feel welcome to volunteer or help support the mission of Catholic Charities.
Dr. Knight: Thank you very much for helping us to know about you and the work of Catholic Charities. It is inspiring for all to read.