William F. Bolan Jr. 
William F. Bolan Jr. 

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

The abiding faith and selfless service of William F. Bolan Jr. was celebrated Nov. 3 during a Mass of Christian Burial among loving family, friends and colleagues in his parish church of St. James, Pennington. An advocate for the underprivileged and downtrodden during his 22 years as executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, Bolan died Oct. 25. 

The Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Michael J. Walsh, pastor. Assisting on the altar were his colleagues at the NJCC, Deacon Patrick R. Brannigan, his successor, and Deacon George Corwell, director of the NJCC’s Office of Education, who serves in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Doylestown, Pa.

In his homily, Deacon Brannigan, who serves in St. James Parish, recalled his friend of nearly 60 years and mentor as a “kind, gentle, talented, dedicated, faithful and loving man” who epitomized the Second Reading selected for the Mass: James 2:14-17.

“Today’s reading from James tells us that faith, if it does not have good works, is dead,” Deacon Brannigan said. “That is almost a definition of Bill, who throughout his life, demonstrated his faith in good works and concern for the poor and the vulnerable.”

Bolan, who served from 1984 until his retirement in 2006, met with many challenges on his watch as he advocated for the Catholic position on a wide range of issues that would sweep the state over those years. Among them were partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, affordable housing, immigration rights and tax credits for the parents of religious school students.

That aid, Deacon Brannigan said, was reflected by the many letters he found in Bolan’s personnel file after he died. In one of many poignant moments, the deacon read an excerpt from one bishop who wrote upon Bolan’s retirement: “Bill, you have been a gem beyond a great price. I am sure that with your personal and professional gifts and talents, you could have gotten more of what the world offers if you had pursued other than the Church’s work. But service to the Lord Jesus and his Church has been your true vocation, and you have been faithful in good times and in bad.”

His words were heartening to Bolan’s wife of 46 years, Sue, and to his other family members, including his brother, John.

“His true vocation was serving the Church,” Sue Bolan said. “He was a man of prayer, and he was always striving for a closer relationship with God. He just really loved prayer.”

Prayer was a real factor in a job that called for balancing Church and state politics, she said. “He certainly believed it was easy to do his job because he believed in God.”

John Bolan said that from childhood days, when his older brother was an altar server in St. Rose of Lima Parish, Short Hills, he “really loved his devotion” to the faith. Over time, Bolan’s interest in government and the law blossomed, and eventually all of those interests melded, John Bolan said.

He said his brother enjoyed his time at the NJCC. “He loved the job. He was dedicated to that work. He wanted to always do the right thing,” John Bolan said.