Fresh off the Boat

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Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah J. Kevin Boland sailed from County Cork, Ireland to the shores of the Hostess City in 1959, fresh out of seminary with no idea about gnats or Southern summers. 

          “We’ve not sent a priest to Georgia in 25 years,” said the president of the seminary to his student.

It was the nugget that pushed 18-year-old Kevin Boland to the books. “I went to the library, got the atlas out, and looked where Georgia was. I was naïve. I said, ‘Well, this is as good as any place’—not looking up the temperatures in the summers or the humidity.

“I winged it and I went back to them and said, ‘Savannah.’ Six years later, I’m ordained a priest and I get on a ship in Cobh Harbor for the U.S. As I was passing the Statue of Liberty, I threw my hat—they told me this was the thing to do—to throw my hat in deference to who she is. It was a gimmick—I had to buy a new hat when I got to Georgia.” 

It all happened—58 years as a priest, 16 as bishop—completely on an Irish whim.