Favorite color? What makes you happy? What are you good at? What is your greatest fear… “Twenty Questions” is a regular feature in which SCJs and those with whom they minister and collaborate share a bit about themselves in an informal Q&A. Participants are given the same list of questions and are invited to answer as many as they would like.
Originally from Boston, Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ, joined the US Air Force just weeks out of high school. Among his tasks during his four years of service was maintaining nuclear weapons-carrying aircraft. Before pursuing his vocation to the priesthood and religious life, he was a contract worker for the military industry. He has spent much of his religious life working for social justice.
Q: Where were you born and raised? Describe your family.
FR. BOB: I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1937, the fourth of seven children – five boys and two girls. My dad and mom lost three small stores to the crash of 1929. He then went to work for the post office for the next 30-plus years. My mom was a homemaker and the spiritual center of the family. I spent many years with severe asthma, almost dying a few times, and often thought I wouldn’t want to marry and have children for fear of passing on this terrible malady to my children. I also told my mother that I would travel the world when I grew up, partly, I think, because I could not go out to play with other children.
Q: What is your favorite book or movie?
FR. BOB: I have so many. Books: The Bible, Resistance and Contemplation by Jim Douglas, Salvadoran Witness: The Life And Calling of Jean Donovan by Ana Carrigan, Malcolm X by Alex Haley, and Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare by James Cone.
Movies: “Roses in December,” “Malcolm X,” and “Loving” (the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, 1967 plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating state laws prohibiting interracial marriage).
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world – without concern about the expense – where would you go and why?
FR. BOB: I’ve already been to 30 countries and 30 US states. I’d like to visit sub-Saharan Africa and China but I think I’d like to spend a longer period of time in Mexico because the people seem extra friendly and caring and I’d like to learn the language. Of course, I suspect I’d immediately get involved in justice and peace concerns given all the inequities.
Q: What are you good at?
FR. BOB: Lots of things: a classic jack of all trades and master of none.
Q: What is your favorite color?
FR. BOB: My brother Rich, now deceased, often asked me that question and I had a tough time answering him. I don’t think of colors abstractly. Forest greens and blues come to mind but many colors in differing circumstances attract me.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? If so, what are they and how did you get interested in them?
FR. BOB: Life itself is my hobby or pastime. Sorry, but that’s my initial response. Years ago when having my life-changing experience of God, I realized that you get out of life what you put into it. I then committed myself to put my whole being into life
Q: What is your favorite food?
FR. BOB: Mint chocolate chip ice cream. No, maybe spumoni. No, chocolate. Okay, all three!
Q: What is your least favorite chore?
FR. BOB: Cleaning: my apartment, dishes, laundry.
Q: Who — living or deceased — do you most admire and why?
FR. BOB: I guess it’s obvious from my book/movie selection: Martin Luther King, Jr., Jean Donovan, Dorothy Day, St. Oscar Romero, Malcolm X. For me, they model everything Jesus taught and stood for.
Q: What would surprise people to learn about you?
FR. BOB: I’d rather be a follower. But I’ve come to realize that that is the luxury of the comfortable. It’s incumbent upon us followers of Jesus to “take a stand and stand there” as Daniel Berrigan, SJ, famously said. And so I force myself to take leadership roles when it seems appropriate.
Q: What skill or talent would you like to have that you do not? Why?
FR. BOB: I’d like to be a better athlete. I do okay as it is but I’d like to be better. I’ve always enjoyed physical activity.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
FR. BOB:I wanted to be like my brother, Dave, who was admired, a good athlete and intelligent, a good boxer. For years he was my idol. I even took David as my confirmation name even though Paul was/is my favorite name. Later, I wanted to sail and live on my own boat in the South Pacific and/or be a pilot. Even later, I found my way into SCUBA diving which fulfilled some of those desires even thinking I’d be a SCUBA instructor. But God had other ideas.
Q: What makes you happy?
FR. BOB: When there is true peace. When others stand up for those in need. A beautiful sky or sunset. A grove of trees. Flowers. Music and song.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
FR. BOB: Failing to be faithful to the God-of-my-life for many reasons to which I succumb often enough. I’ve come to paraphrase Fr. Dehon’s last words: For God I lived, for God I die. God is my everything, my life, my death and my eternity. May God grant me the grace to be so faithful.
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in yourself?
FR. BOB: I find so many traits or habits in myself with which I’m uncomfortable. My greatest weakness is to go along to get along. I suppose I could excuse that by saying I’m a middle child, a peacemaker. While that’s true, I think I just want to be accepted, believe it or not.
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in others?
FR. BOB: Cruelty. Disdain for others. Picking on the weak or marginalized.
Q: List three words that describe you.
FR. BOB: I’m “Trying my best.”
Q: How did you come to know of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) and what interested you about them?
FR. BOB: After having met the God-of-my-life, the living God, I wanted to give my whole life in and with God. For me, that was to be a priest, which the good sisters in my early life often said required one to attend daily Mass. And so, in the back of a church in Florida, there were religious pamphlets/booklets. One was about vocations. I wrote to several religious communities seeking entrance. I included the SCJs because they appealed to second career vocations, “delayed vocations” they called it back then. I was, after all, 27 years of age, an old guy. The SCJs were the only one that responded to my urgent need to make such a commitment. I gave up my job, car, shared-apartment and left a community of friends to travel to a place I had never heard of nor seen, Sacred Heart Seminary in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Later I learned of “ecce venio”, the self-offering to which we SCJs dedicate our lives, which was exactly the calling that I felt. I often reflect that God guides the weak, children and fools. Sound like me.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Dehonian? If so, what does that mean to you?
FR. BOB: (And so I continue my thoughts from the previous question.) For me, union with God is my everything. This is the call of the SCJ, union with Jesus in his self offering to God for the good of all and, as we know today, the good of all creation. I take much heart from the opening phrase of #23 in our Rule of Life which is a “welcome to the Spirit.” For me, that means that everything I do to be more like Jesus is because I allow, I welcome, the Spirit into my life. Without that Spirit, I am nothing. In reflecting on my life, I live for no other reason, to offer my life to God, to be in union with the God-of-my-life. Without that, my life is an empty shell, a charade.
Q: What changes, adaptations or insights do you expect to stay with you from the pandemic?
FR. BOB: I am fully convinced that we cannot and must not return to business as usual which continues to alienate and hurt those who are marginalized but also the earth itself, our home. I am much more committed, in my ever aging days, to continue to work to create a world that we can leave to the coming generations who, especially as religious, are our heritage, our legacy. I know that my energies do not allow for as much activism as in the past but it still allows me to speak in word and deed as best as I am able to promote this end.