Series of firsts marks missionary priest's life and work

Father Charles Boykins, 1932-2013

Boykins,_Father_Charles_Aug_2013_for_webDivine Word Father Charles Boykins, Jr., who served as a missionary in Ghana and as provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word U.S. Southern Province, died at age 80 on Aug. 8, at Techny, Ill.

"Charlie had a knowledge and appreciation of not only African-American history but also African history," said Father Quang Duc Dinh, SVD, rector of the Divine Word Residence at Techny, where Father Boykins had lived since 2006.

"He was present for many historical events of recent times," Father Dinh said. "He worked with Bishop Harold Perry, SVD, auxiliary bishop of New Orleans and the first African-American bishop. He served in Ghana when the country was newly independent, and he was pastor of St. Mary in Vicksburg, Miss., the Society of the Divine Word’s first African-American parish, when the community celebrated its centennial in 2006."

Ordained in 1965, Father Boykins worked at Our Lady of the Gardens in Chicago before being transferred to the country of Ghana in West Africa, where he ministered for two decades. During his first five years in Ghana, he worked among the Ewe people and cared for a rural church with 15 small mission churches and 14 Catholic schools on the Volta River.

In 1971, his superiors named him novice director, and he spent a year studying at St. Louis University before undertaking his new duties at the novitiate in Nkwatia-Kwahu, Ghana, from 1972 to 1980.

Also in 1971, Father Boykins participated in the consecration Mass of Archbishop Dominic Kodwo Andoh, Ghana’s first native-born bishop. Bishop Andoh, who became an archbishop 13 years later when the Diocese of Accra became an archdiocese, later called Father Boykins to Accra, the capital of Ghana, to work at the cathedral and in the diocesan business office.

When Father Boykins returned to the United States in the mid-1980s, he focused on pastoral care in the U.S. Southern Province, including time as pastor of St. Mary in Vicksburg, Miss. In 1990, Father Boykins was named to the first of two terms as provincial superior.

The eldest of Charles and Rebecca (nee Bazile) Boykins’s five sons, Charles Boykins, Jr., was born in Acme, La., in 1932. As a youth, he began studying with the Society of the Divine Word in 1951 at St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Founded by the Society of the Divine Word, St. Augustine was specifically built as the first school in the United States to admit African-American men who wished to become priests and brothers. The young Boykins professed vows in 1957.

Father Boykins was preceded in death by his four brothers: Joseph, David, Earl and Warren. He is survived by nieces and nephews.

Services were held at the Divine Word Residence. He is laid to rest at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Charles Boykins can be made for the care of retired missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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