Fr Joe Boland, the parish priest of St Bride's, was born in the Ayrshire mining village of Muirkirk in 1945. He is the son of William Boland and Katy Gibney, and has two younger sisters, Marie and Kathleen. Joe attended primary school in St Thomas' in Muirkirk and from there, in 1957, moved to Blairs College in Aberdeen. In 1963 he moved on to the Royal Scots College in Valladolid, Spain, and was ordained in Muirkirk on 5th July 1969 by Bishop Joseph McGee.
Joe's first appointment was to St Andrew's in Dumfries, but after less than a year there he was transferred back to Blairs College where he taught Spanish for five years. In 1975 he was sent to St Michael's parish in Kilmarnock as a curate to Fr Eugene Matthews, but his main ministry during those years was as virtually full-time chaplain to St Joseph's Academy in the town. From there, in 1980, he was appointed parish priest of St Connel's, living in Sanquhar, but looking after both Kirkconnel and New Cumnock. During the five years he spent there he was also Diocesan RE Advisor for Secondary Schools, a job which involved travelling more than 30.000 miles each year visiting schools in Dumfries, Cumnock, Girvan, Ayr, Kilwinning, Ardrossan and Kilmarnock.. From Sanquhar Joe was appointed in 1985 to St Matthew's in Kilmarnock where he spent twenty four years, moving in 2009 to West Kilbride where he never stops telling people how happy he is.
A crucial moment in the story of Joe's ministry happened in 1989. From the beginning of February that year he spent three months in St Beuno's, a Jesuit Retreat Centre in North Wales, where, as part of a programme known as the 3M - three months - he did the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. This was a turning point in his life and ever since then the Exercises have dominated his ministry. He has directed more than 120 people through them in that time, has given many retreats and spends most of every day providing spiritual direction to a wide variety of people. At the heart of everything he does is the conviction that the great challenge of our time is to lead people on the great journey from religion to faith.
Those who know Joe well are aware of the importance of his friendship with Judith, a friendship that began more than twenty years ago when they were directing a retreat together in St Beuno's, They have continued to give retreats together over the years in various parts of the country, but their friendship has deepened and grown over the years. Judith is a Sister of the Holy Child who lives in Oxford, and St Matthew's parishioners became well used to her visits every year at Christmas, Easter and for the Week of Prayer in October, a pattern that has continued in West Kilbride. Judith's friendship has been a great support to Joe over the years, one of God's great gifts in his life.
No account of Joe's life would be complete without mention of his great love for Spain and all things Spanish, including his life-long love affair with Real Madrid CF., the world's biggest and most successful football club. He has good friends who live just outside Madrid, friends whom he has known for nearly fifty years, and it never even crosses his mind to go anywhere else when the summer holidays come round. Anyone who has been in the presbytery in West Kilbride will have noticed that the walls are covered with prints of the great Spanish Masters, and the bookshelves full of books about Spanish history, especially the Spanish Civil War.