The ordination of Fr Brendan Boyce, FSSP, to the priesthood took place in Auckland on July 3, but not before a lot of last-minute reorganisation because of Covid-19.
Fr Boyce was ordained by Bishop Denis Browne at St Benedict’s church in Newton, which was the same church in which the new priest was ordained deacon by the same bishop last year.
But the initial plan for this year’s ordination was that the ordaining bishop would be Sydney auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers, a New Zealander. The pausing of the travel bubble with Australia meant this did not happen. Several priests who had planned to travel from Australia to be present at the Mass were also unable to get to New Zealand.
Before the ordination, then-Deacon Boyce told NZ Catholic that Bishop Browne has “been very generous to us, so we must acknowledge that and be very thankful for it”. Bishop Browne had offered to celebrate the Mass, should Bishop Umbers be unable to attend.
One of the prayers Bishop Browne read out at the Solemn Pontifical Mass (extraordinary form, in Latin) stated: “Let your teaching be a spiritual remedy for God’s people; let the fragrance of your [life] be a delight to the Church of God, that by both your preaching and example, you may build up the house that is the family of God . . . .”
Fr Boyce had been in Sydney doing pastoral work as a deacon, and came back in New Zealand on June 7, ahead of his ordination.
Born in Nelson, he spent his early years in Whakatane and then the family moved to Cambridge.
As a child and young man, he encountered priests like Fr Frank O’Regan, Msgr Trevor Murray, Fr Joe Stack and Msgr Des McCarthy — all “very good men”.
“I suppose from an early age, I had a very positive impression of priesthood,” Fr Boyce said. There were also priestly connections in his family, with two cousins being priests. His brother Gerard is the parish priest in Whakatane.
Fr Boyce said that growing up in a home where the faith was clearly valued and practised was important.
“The practice of the faith was an ever-present,” he said of his early years. “It wasn’t just something alternative or extra. It was always woven into the fabric of the family life.” The seeds of a vocation were planted.
After studying at St John’s College, Hamilton, the young Brendan Boyce went on to study Latin and Ancient History at the University of Auckland, where he gained a master’s degree.
He embarked on a teaching career, and taught Latin at Auckland Grammar School for just over a decade.
“I was very fortunate that the school was a very strong and unwavering supporter of Latin. . . . It is such a great subject to study, because it is not just the language, it is the culture, and you get a real sense of the history. It is just a shame in many ways that we have, in our Catholic schools at least, forgone the teaching of what is our sacred language,” he said.
Although there were times during his years in Auckland when he did not always practise his faith as well as he had in his early years (although he always identified as Catholic), “slowly but surely, by the good grace of God, I came to realise that this [priesthood] was something that I had to pursue”.
Fr Boyce said that Latin had always fascinated him. He recalled reading his mother’s Marian Missal and the family receiving his grandfather’s Latin Missal after the latter had died.
“Being of an historical bent, I eventually sated my desire to know Latin, and then there was a natural desire to at least experience or investigate the Mass to which Latin had been so attached,” Fr Boyce said.
“Eventually I managed to head to the Latin Mass, and it took a while to get used to it, which I think is a shame. There is a something incongruous when a Mass which, for many hundreds of years, created saints, and by which people were formed, was suddenly something foreign to me. . . . That shouldn’t, I felt, be the case.”
Fr Boyce said of his seminary studies in Australia and the United States: “Seminary was a very positive experience, surrounded by young men who want to love Our Lord, and who love the Church, and who want to offer themselves as a service to the Church.”
Asked about his hopes for his future ministry as a priest, Fr Boyce replied: “Really, in one respect it is a question of having the humility to do what you are asked. Obedience is very, very important for any community. Obedience to your superiors, obedience to Our Lord, obedience to the Church. So, in many respects, where they choose to place me is where I’m supposed to be, so really one just tries to embrace the charism, which is the sanctification of priests and faithful according to the liturgical books in use in 1962 and before.”
His first posting after ordination will be to Sydney, he said.