Rose's roots

  • Written by Jean Parietti
  • Published in NW Stories
Rose Boyle. Photo: Janis Olson Rose Boyle. Photo: Janis Olson

Leaving Ireland to help a cousin in Seattle became a lifelong blessing for Rose Boyle

Rose Boyle was an Irish Catholic 30-something, trying to discern her life’s direction, when her cousin suggested she move to the U.S.

He could use her help at his home in Seattle, and “it’s a good time for you to make up your mind what you want to do,” Boyle recalled him saying.

So she made the move, taking up residence in the home of her American-born first cousin once removed — the late Seattle Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly.

“I was his gal Friday,” Boyle said. She did some housekeeping, a bit of cooking, went grocery shopping and otherwise helped tend the archbishop’s household.

“We had a wonderful relationship,” said Boyle, who helped care for Archbishop Connolly in his later years, after he suffered two bouts of pneumonia and a stroke, until his death at age 91 in 1991.

By his example, the archbishop left his cousin the gift of a strong faith.

“I’m extremely thankful to God that I was with him all those years, because I have a great faith seeing how he could do everything [when healthy] and then to see him helpless at the end … and how he accepted his illness,” Boyle said.

“He was an inspiration.”

Family ties

Boyle was just 6 when she met “Father Tom” — as the family called him then — during his 1938 visit to Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, to see his extended family. He stayed with his uncle (Boyle’s grandfather) on the same farm where his mother was born. Over the years, Archbishop Connolly visited the family several times, including when he attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962–65.

Archbishop Power and Rose Boyle
Rose Boyle chatted with retired Portland Archbishop Cornelius M. Power at the 1991 funeral of her cousin Seattle Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly.

In 1971, it was Boyle who came to the U.S., for a wedding in New York. Afterward, she visited an aunt in Montana and Archbishop Connolly in Seattle before heading to Detroit, New York and back home to Ireland.

At the time, Boyle was working as a doctor’s receptionist and living at home, helping take care of her father, who had health problems. Uncertain about the direction of her life, she returned to Seattle for a couple of longer visits and then decided to stay and help her cousin.

She called him Archbishop. He called her Rosie; “sometimes he called me his house mother,” Boyle said.

They were family: She respected him and the archbishop looked out for her.

One night, Boyle and a friend went to the opera, then stopped for ice cream. Arriving home after 11 p.m., Boyle found the archbishop waiting for her outside the gate of the residence. “Where were you until this hour of the night?” she recalled him asking. And how would he be able to tell her mother if something happened to her? “I said, ‘Archbishop, you must think I’m a child.’ ‘Well, you have the sense of one,’ he said. And I said, ‘Well, I’m going home in the morning.’”

But she didn’t. “I had no intention of going home,” Boyle said with a laugh.

The archbishop had a great sense of humor and was a “very good cook,” Boyle said. He had a “delicious” recipe for Cornish game hens, but never shared it. Homemade peach ice cream was another of his specialties, a treat usually reserved for visits with his niece from California and his youngest sister, a BVM nun.

When the archbishop traveled to his native San Francisco, he took Boyle along to visit her cousins in the area. There were weekend trips to an archdiocese-owned residence on the Kitsap peninsula, accompanied by close friends or family.

“He was very good to me, I must say that,” Boyle said.

Meeting the pope

After retiring at the mandatory age of 75, Archbishop Connolly took his niece and Boyle with him on annual winter trips to Honolulu. There, he stayed with the bishop, a good friend. “Mary Catherine and I would enter the convent for six weeks,” Boyle said with a twinkle in her eye, referring to their accommodations.

As the archbishop’s health declined, travel became difficult. Although very sick, in 1989 he flew to San Francisco — accompanied by Boyle and his regular nurse — to pay his respects to Pope John Paul II. The pope “kissed him and gave him a special blessing,” Boyle said. She shook hands with the pope and “we all got our [rosary] beads blessed.”

While caring for the archbishop in his final years, Boyle remembers him expressing his appreciation for her efforts: “I pray for you every day for what you’re doing for me,” he told her. Boyle appreciates all the priests and laypeople who were good to her cousin over the years.

After Archbishop Connolly’s death in 1991 — on April 18, Boyle’s birthday — she went back to Ireland for a while, but then returned to her adopted home and her circle of good friends.

Coming to Seattle “was the best thing that ever happened to me, because I’ve been extremely happy,” she said.

Boyle has been active in Seattle’s Serra Club, which encourages vocations, and has served coffee twice a week at St. Francis House, a Seattle day shelter for the homeless. “It could be any of us waiting for a cup of coffee,” she noted. “I know a lot of the guys there. They’re all nice people.”

“My great love are the Carmelites. They are the most wonderful, wonderful women,” Boyle said of the nuns at the monastery in Shoreline, where she attends morning Mass. “When you go into the little chapel, it’s like going home. There’s peace and spirituality.”

Now 84, Boyle is planning to move back to Ireland, to once again live in the home where she grew up. “I want to die at home,” she said. “I’m very happy and very much at peace.”

Northwest Catholic - June 2016