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Remembering Father Boddie

Father John Boddie

by Tom Chillemi

Father John Boddie, who served as pastor of the Catholic parishes in Middlesex and Mathews counties for almost 12 years, died Tuesday, May 19, 2009.

An estimated 600 people attended his funeral on Saturday at Francis De Sales Church in Mathews, including Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.

When Father Boddie was studying to be a priest in the mid-1980s, he trained at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Highland Park, which was attended by Kaine and his family.

The Kaines attended Father Boddie’s ordination in 1988 and later he baptized one of Kaine’s children. “He was just a really dear friend,” said Gov. Kaine last week. “We feel his loss very personally.”

Father Boddie had a “booming” laugh, noted Gov. Kaine, who also spoke at the funeral. “He’d want to be remembered by a lot of laughs and smiles.”

Father Boddie was an intellectual and, when starting out as a priest, “sometime before he learned he could be just a regular guy,” his homilies would begin very intellectually, said Gov. Kaine. Progressively, Father Boddie became more relaxed and his likable personality came out, said Gov. Kaine. “He was such a great homilist. He really was a delightful guy.”

Kathy Kauffman of Topping, a member of the Church of the Visitation near Topping, said Father Boddie identified with the underdog, the downtrodden, or people on the fringes. “The disenfranchised” was the word he often used.

“He brought people back to church, by living what Jesus taught, that we should love one another,” said Kauffman.

Father Boddie’s sermons “made people feel good about their place in the world and with God,” she said. “He was a regular guy and at the same time, he was a great man.”

Robert Nash, who is retired and helped Father Boddie with church duties, will be interim priest until someone is appointed. “He was a great priest and marvelous pastor,” said Father Nash. “I think everybody felt very welcome wherever he was. He was that kind of person.”

Lynn and Gary Richardson of Hartfield were neighbors of Father Boddie as well as parishioners. Mrs. Richardson visited the sick and homebound with Father Boddie. “He loved to sing to and with them and let them forget about where they were. He’d have them talk about their younger life,” she said.

Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Father Boddie still visited people, noted Mrs. Richardson. “He was always thinking about other folks.”

Gary Richardson said, “He was a great conversationalist and had deeply held views that he enjoyed expressing, and he always was careful to listen and consider the views of others.”
Father Boddie often “had a different take on a Gospel we had heard for years,” said Mrs. Richardson.

Visiting the sick was a very important responsibility to Father Boddie as a pastor, said parishioner Ray Kostesky, who said he and Father Boddie had a special bond. “The number of people who attended his funeral was a wonderful testimony to him as an individual and his love for mankind.”

On Sunday, May 17, a letter from Father Boddie was read to parishioners at both churches. “The way you have loved me and cared for me has shown me that you have taken to heart my words that ‘each of you is a priest,’ ” wrote Father Boddie.

Read Mary Wakefield Buxton’s 5-part series, “A Priest For All Seasons,” on the life of Father John Boddie.

A Priest for All Seasons, Part 1
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 2
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 3
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 4
A Priest for All Seasons, Part 5

posted 05.27.2009

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