When asked about it, Patricia Boyle expressed surprise that her and her late husband, James M. Boyle Jr., were awarded the Pennsylvania 2021 Family of the Year Award by the Knights of Columbus.
“I was surprised at it. I don’t see us as any different than any other family,” Patricia said.
The Boyles are 40 plus year members of St. Joseph Catholic Church in East York. It was the parish they first started attending when they moved to Pennsylvania, and they’ve never left.
At that church and through the elementary school and York Catholic High School, the Boyles raised six children – James M. Boyle III, born in 1958; Bonnie Ann (Boyle) Uehara, born in 1959; Christopher Boyle, born in 1962; Dana Marie (Boyle) Lipari, born in 1963; Monica (Boyle) Welker, born in 1973; and Patrick Boyle, born in 1978. Patricia now has 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Their love story began as happenstance. It was 1955. Patricia was attending college at Michigan State University and James was at the University of Southern California. Michigan State was playing UCLA in the 1956 Rose Bowl. Michigan sent three trainloads of students from East Lansing to Pasadena.
James, who had gone back to college after getting out of the service in Korea, was invited by fraternity brothers to a party with the Michigan State University students. He and Patricia met and began corresponding.
“We wrote letters back and forth, all the time,” she said. “He came back East to visit his parents and came to Detroit to see me.”
He surprised her by taking RCIA. Although he had been baptized Catholic, his mother wasn’t Catholic, and he didn’t practice the faith. Patricia was a cradle Catholic. “Faith was always so important to me. I went to Mass at college every week.”
The couple were engaged in 1956 at Christmastime, and married on Aug. 24, 1957 at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church in Detroit.
“We were married at the main altar, which was a big deal back then,” she said. At the time, inter-denominational marriages weren’t permitted to marry at the main altar of many Catholic churches and instead took place at smaller, side altars.
The couple settled in California, where James was still in college. Patricia worked as a receptionist until she became pregnant with their first son, and then she was a stay-at-home-mother.
“In those days, you couldn’t get work if you were more than two months pregnant,” she said.
After graduation, Jim got a job with NCR Corporation, which at the time sold cash registers and adding machines. He was transferred to Houston in 1970; to Davenport, Iowa in 1970; and then finally to Baltimore in 1974.
“Once we married, we never lived close to family,” Patricia said. Her family was in Michigan, and her husband’s family lived in Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida. Because of that, they drew on themselves and their children, forming a strong family bond. All their children were, of course, raised Catholic.
“That was what it was going to be. It was never a question,” Patricia said. All of her grown children are still Catholic. “This was just a way of life for them. We went to Mass every Sunday, we went to lunch after Mass every week.”
“They never balked at going to Mass. They went all through college and stayed Catholic. They never really questioned anything about it. It was just a way of life for us,” she said.
Although Jim had to take RCIA to convert to Catholicism, he was raised Episcopalian, so church and religion were part of his life.
“We practiced and lived our faith. Most of our friends were church people. It has to be part of your life. It was part of my life, part of our life,” she said. “The Catholic Church has been a big help to me. It’s something to turn to, not just physically. All you have to do is ask God and He’ll help you.”
At St. Joe’s, the whole family was involved in a range of activities. Patricia is a member of the Columbiettes; her husband James was a Knight of Columbus, as is her son James, who is a Fourth Degree member. Patricia sings in the choir and is involved in the Right to Life group. She also belongs to a group called JOY – Just Older Youth – that meets twice monthly, as well as a Catholic Women’s Club.
Because the award was a surprise to her, not many of her family were able to attend, although one daughter-in-law and four grandchildren were present.
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I was so touched.”
To meet Patricia is to see the embodiment of deep faith lived out daily.
By Lauren Gross, Special to The Witness