The letter is simple, a postcard-sized memento from decades of reporting.
And yet, because it was handwritten from the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, it was kept, stored in a file.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland died Thursday in his home country of Ireland. News that he had returned to his native soil for hospice care prompted a search for the letter from 1997. The idea of Boland returning to Ireland added a joyful layer to the otherwise sad news of his declining health. Because in that short note, he had shared a kinship with my father’s immigrant experience.
Just want you to know I enjoyed México y mi papá in the Star on 5-4-97.
As the local Irish-born bishop (currently sidelined by illness) I have a special interest in the immigrant experience. You did a fine job.
Best wishes, Raymond J. Boland.
Boland underlined “Irish-born” for extra emphasis. “México y mi Papá” was the headline. The article chronicled tracing my father’s heritage from his Mexico City birth. But it also tried to capture what is lost, what is gained, through immigration.
A snippet of the article: “My father’s heritage is obvious, in the olive of his skin, the black of his hair and ‘z’ at the end of his name. But only recently have we begun to talk of these things. I have begun to define the role Mexico will play in my life; he has begun to accept its role in his.”
Boland didn’t say a lot by virtue of his note’s length. But he covered everything. The immigrant experience is indeed unifying. The originating country, it matters not.
As a son of Ireland, Boland understood this. The Catholic faith has long nourished and valued the immigrant experience. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is among the strongest voices seeking reform of our immigration system. Legal avenues for the reunification of families and respect for human dignity are paramount to the faith’s views.
To leave a country and find a home in another is a remarkable journey. Immigrants, by definition alone, are extraordinary people. Too often in America, this is misunderstood. The immigrant’s nostalgia for birthplace doesn’t negate loyalty to a new land.
Boland, 82, was born in Tipperary, Ireland. He gave years of dedicated work through the church in America, but it was to his homeland that he yearned to return.