Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle passes away

Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle of Dunedin has died, surrounded by family and his brother priests, after a short period of ill health, he was 85.

Bishop Boyle, who lived in Mosgiel, recently moved into the Sacred Heart Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Brockville, Dunedin. He died peacefully this morning.

Bishop Patrick Dunn, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, said: “It is with sadness that we pay tribute to our brother bishop, recalling his commitment to the people he served and his ministry as a priest and bishop. He was a proud son of Southland. He would remark about the community spirit in Southland. Community was very important to him and his approach to priesthood over more than 50 years. In retirement he continued to serve as parish priest in various parishes throughout the Diocese wherever he was needed. We extend our condolences to his family, his brother priests and the community that he loved dearly.”

He was the subject of a biography in 2012, written by former Otago
Daily Times journalist, Claire Ramsay. It was aptly named ’The Good Shepherd ’. The book described his somewhat unconventional path to becoming a bishop, having been brought up in a pub in Nightcaps. As well as being a farmer, shearer and freezing worker, he was a keen rugby player before training as a priest in Christchurch and Mosgiel in the 1950s and early 1960s.

He was ordained a bishop in Dunedin's Town Hall in 1983 and two years later was installed as Bishop of Dunedin on the death of Bishop John Kavanagh. He was the first ‘local’ appointed to head the diocese, and was not trained in Rome as his predecessors had been. At the time the book was launched Bishop Boyle joked that it was too flattering as it “included all the good but not the bad”.

Months later he told the Otago Daily Times that he was growing fonder of the book, having resisted the suggestions by others to write an autobiography, and eventually giving in to the persistence of others for the book to be written. “I wasn't too keen on it at first. I thought only grand people had books written about them," he said. A natural storyteller, he had enjoyed being able to relate anecdotes and memories.

Bishop Boyle was born in Nightcaps, Southland, and educated at convent schools in Nightcaps and Winton and then later at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru. He came from a distinguished and well known Winton family known for their involvement with racing, rugby and the hotel trade. Bishop Boyle himself had a love of horses. He often said “I’m away to a course” and on return would say, “I failed and have to repeat the course”.

He served as a bishop until his retirement in 2004. Bishop Boyle had six brothers, Wattie, Jack, Eddie, Frank, Vincent, Cliff, and two sisters Patricia and Margaret (who died in infancy).
He is survived by his brother, Cliff, sister-in-law Eileen Boyle and his 27 nieces and nephews and their families.

Born at Nightcaps, Southland on 30 November 1930

Educated at Sister of Mercy convent schools in Nightcaps and Winton; St. Kevin's College, Oamaru; Holy Name Seminary, Christchurch; Holy Cross College, Mosgiel

Ordained at Winton on 31 June 1961

Appointments held since ordination: Curate,
South Dunedin 1961 - 1964; Curate, Georgetown, Invercargill 1964 - 1970; Parish Priest - South Dunedin 1970 - 1972; Parish Priest - St. Mary's, Invercargill 1972 - 1983

Ordained Coadjutor Bishop for the Dunedin Diocese at Dunedin's Town Hall on 3 May 1983 and was later installed as the 5th Bishop of the Diocese on 10 July 1985.

He served as bishop until his retirement on 9 July 2004 at age 74.