Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle of Dunedin passed away, surrounded by family and his brother priests, after a short period of ill health. He was 85.

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference president Bishop Patrick Dunn today announced the sad news.

“It is with sadness that we pay tribute to our brother bishop, recalling his commitment to the people he served and his ministry as a priest and bishop. He was a proud son of Southland,” said Bishop Dunn.

Bishop Dunn recalled how Bishop Boyle would always remark about the community spirit in Southland.

“Community was very important to him and his approach to priesthood over more than 50 years. In retirement he continued to serve as parish priest in various parishes throughout the Diocese wherever he was needed,” Bishop Dunn added.

“We extend our condolences to his family, his brother priests and the community that he loved dearly,” he said.

Bishop Boyle lived in Mosgiel and recently moved into the Sacred Heart Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Brockville, Dunedin.

Bishop Boyle was the subject of a biography titled “The Good Shepherd” written in 2012 by former Otago Daily Times journalist, Claire Ramsay.

The book described his unconventional path to becoming a bishop: having been brought up in a pub in Nightcaps as well as being a farmer, shearer and freezing worker. He was also a keen rugby player before training as a priest in Christchurch and Mosgiel in the 1950s and early 1960s.

He was ordained a bishop in Dunedin’s Town Hall in 1983 and two years later was installed as Bishop of Dunedin on the death of Bishop John Kavanagh. He was the first ‘local’ appointed to head the diocese, and was not trained in Rome as his predecessors had been.

At the time the book was launched Bishop Boyle joked that it was too flattering as it “included all the good but not the bad”.

Bishop Boyle was born in Nightcaps, Southland, and educated at convent schools in Nightcaps and Winton and then later at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru.

He came from a distinguished and well known Winton family known for their involvement with racing, rugby and the hotel trade. Bishop Boyle himself had a love of horses. He often said “I’m away to a course” and on return would say, “I failed and have to repeat the course”.

He served as a bishop until his retirement in 2004. Bishop Boyle had five brothers, Wattie, Jack, Eddie, Frank and Vincent and two sisters Patricia and Margaret (who died in infancy) who passed on before him.

He is survived by his brother, Cliff, sister-in-law Eileen Boyle and his 27 nieces and nephews and their families.