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 | By Mary Kay McPartlin

Living the Gospel in a radical way: Brother Francis Boylan, CSC

In the 1960s, there were only two ways for young men and women to become missionaries – join either the Peace Corps or a religious order. The call to consecrated life was strong for Brother Francis Boylan, and, with education as its charism, the Brothers of Holy Cross community was a perfect fit.

Armed with a teaching certificate, Brother Francis made his way to Boysville of Michigan in Clinton.

That assignment, almost 50 years ago, changed his life in a radical way – and continues to do so today. “We had just finished a retreat directed by Dorothy Day,” Brother Francis says. “Dorothy had stressed living the Gospel in a radical way. She said to pray a lot and live a life of voluntary poverty, hospitality and pacifism. I felt pretty comfortable with that verbiage. I had taken vows of poverty and obedience, and as a religious community we prayed often. Now I was free to help people.”

Engaged in the daily life with 20 young men where he was an educator, mentor and caregiver 24 hours a day, Brother Francis soon felt burned out. He went to see his order’s campus spiritual director, Edward Overstreet, to understand why helping others wasn’t more satisfying. 

“Edward reminded me that God did not need helpers, He sent me to Boysville to be helped by these homeless kids,” says Brother Francis. “God, as I have so many times been told by my confreres, does not call us to something just because he needs someone to do the job. He calls us because he knows our personal gifts, and we were created to share those gifts with the most marginalized of God’s children.”

His religious community recognized the gifts Brother Francis had to offer. Edward encouraged him to move beyond the life he saw for himself and inspired him to attend graduate school.

“I was just a happy science teacher,” he says. “Edward recognized a gift in me, and I was obedient to my superior and followed his guidance. If he hadn’t seen that part of me, I wouldn’t have the necessary qualifications needed today.”

Edward’s guidance and the encouragement of his community led Brother Francis to his position as executive director of Holy Cross Children’s Services. For more than 40 years, his focus has been to love, not help, those who lack the opportunity to thrive.

“Religious life can be dangerous,” Brother Francis says. “The men and women of Holy Cross I have lived with remind me an encounter with Christ causes us to see life in new ways. When you encounter Christ, you have to change.”

Living in community has strengthened Brother Francis, deepening his reservoir of love. Community for him is synonymous with family, which is often most appealing for anyone considering living a consecrated life.

“Young men joining the Congregation of Holy Cross today want to minister to others through their community life,” he says. “They want to share who they are. When we find God in the people we love, we are only sharing God’s love for us, and we become much more aware of his presence within us. Sharing our gifts with others is our way of thanking God for his gifts to us.”

Make an impact

For more information on discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, contact Father John Linden, director of vocations, at 517.342.2507, or Dawn Hausmann, director of consecrated vocations, at 517.342.2506, or visit