Basilian priest, Father Ian Boyd, was international scholar of G.K. Chesterton

11 January 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Rev. Ian Boyd – a pioneering scholar, world traveller and compassionate spiritual director  – has died. He was 88.

Father Boyd celebrated his 60th Anniversary of Ordination on December 15, 2023. He was honoured as a Jubilarian at the November priests’ assembly.

In a 2019 interview with the Archdiocese, Father Boyd said he had lived a life of great grace as a priest.

“The sacramental priesthood is a great treasure,” he said. “You become an instrument through which Mass is said, sins are forgiven and Christ is brought to others. In our Catholic tradition we know in any life there’s naturally ups and downs and proclivities, but there was never at any moment any regret.”

Raised in Blaine Lake, Sask., 85 km north of Saskatoon, Boyd took an interest in the priesthood as a teenager. He was inspired by his brother Leo, an Oblate priest who ministered to Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories. For his part, Boyd was drawn to the intellectual tradition of the Congregation of St. Basil.

Father Ian Boyd retired to Edmonton in 2019, and would celebrate Mass at St. Andrew’s church and St. Joseph’s Basilica.

As a professor of Christian literature, Father Boyd taught at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon and Seton Hall in New Jersey – one of the oldest Catholic universities in the U.S.

In a 2019, upon his retirement, Father Boyd said he believed literature pierced the truths of life more than any argument or abstract philosophy can.

“Because human life has all the characteristics of a story. We are characters in a story told by God. Like a novel it has an ordered plot, meaning everything in our lives is significant and providential,” Father Boyd said.

“If you have a Hawthorne novel or a Chesterton story to illustrate a point about God’s grace, then that Christian literature is a good source for throwing light on the Gospels.”

Father Ian Boyd dedicated much of his life to the works of G.K. Chesterton.

Father Boyd’s philosophy is rooted in G.K. Chesterton – the prolific Catholic writer, philosopher and social critic of the early 20th century. Along with a pioneering book, The Novels of G.K. Chesteron, Father Boyd founded The Chesterton Review academic journal that is still published today.

“I can’t think of a time in my life I wasn’t familiar with Chesterton,” Boyd said, who spent his childhood skimming his father’s copies of G.K.’s Weekly – Chesterton’s newspaper.

“What should resonate with Catholics today is the confidence and joy Chesterton exuded in his writing. He always emphasized the Christian virtue of hope. He always saw the crucifixion in the light of the resurrection.

“Catholics during the liberal 19th and 20th centuries were frightened by this changing world. Then Chesterton came along with his gusto, his great gales of laughter and orthodox wisdom, and he flung the doors open and taught confidence. I think we could use that same lesson today.”

As a scholar, Father Boyd travelled across Europe, the U.S., South Africa, and Japan.

After a life-threatening surgery in 2018, Boyd took a period of rest from travelling and lecturing and moved in with his sister Betty in Edmonton. At the time, Boyd celebrated Mass weekly at St. Andrew’s church and St. Joseph’s Basilica.