On a warm summer afternoon in August 1950, after a long train ride from his hometown in St. Louis to Ogden’s historic Union Station, a young man walked five blocks to St. Joseph Catholic Church, a stone edifice on a hill above the northern Utah railroad town.
He rang the bell at the nearby church rectory. Another young man opened the door. The chance encounter that followed started an unexpected but enduring companionship between John Patrick Boyle, who died earlier this month, and Rudolph August Daz.
Boyle was born in April 1928 to Irish immigrant parents in Missouri. While in the sixth grade, he decided to become a Catholic priest. For high school, he enrolled in an area seminary.
During an academic break from his studies in 1949, Boyle drove west with some fellow students. The group stopped in Utah.
They toured Salt Lake City and swam in the Great Salt Lake. They also drove 50 miles north, to the brand-new Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a Trappist monastery in Huntsville.
Boyle fell in love with the beautiful Ogden Valley setting and the simple Quonset hut monastery. He wrote to the founding abbot, Father Maurice Lans, and asked to join. The abbot wrote back with an invitation.
In the summer of 1950, Boyle packed his bags. Before leaving his hometown, he went to Sportsman’s Park to see his beloved St. Louis Cardinals play baseball one more time.
After watching Stan Musial hit a home run, Boyle bought a railroad ticket and climbed on board a westbound train. A few days later, he was on the front porch of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Their initial meeting
Rudolph Daz took a different path to the same porch. He also was born in April 1928 but in Ogden, a proud descendant of Italian immigrant grandparents. During grade school, he too imagined becoming a priest but did not seriously pursue the vocation until several years later.
He studied at two other Catholic colleges in California before enrolling at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. While there, tragedy struck the Daz family when Rudolph’s father died of heart failure in 1948 at age 43.
The young seminarian came home whenever he could to check on his mother and do odd jobs to help make ends meet. A friend said that his mother — who owned a restaurant — taught Rudolph how to cook and instilled within him “a tremendous love for the sick, the elderly and the homebound.”
In the summer of 1950, Rudolph Daz was working at St. Joseph Parish when Boyle knocked on the door. Boyle asked if someone could help him get to the Ogden Valley monastery. Daz grabbed some car keys and drove the aspiring monk there himself.
Boyle joined the abbey, made his final monastic vows in 1956 and was ordained a priest in 1967. When Daz was ordained a priest in 1954 at his hometown Ogden church, Huntsville’s Abbot Lans joined the service and Utah’s Trappist monks chanted part of the liturgy.
For the next half-century, both men served their communities with devotion, kindness, grace and love.
Boyle, who became known as Father Patrick, threw himself into the Trappist life of ora et labora, prayer and work. He cleaned barns, fed animals and harvested crops. He spent thousands of hours praying for the hundreds of people he met and blessed in the abbey bookstore, as well as for all the rest of us, too.
Rudolph, soon known as Monsignor Daz, became the quintessential parish priest. Serving at nine churches — including one named after St. Patrick — he performed hundreds of baptisms, weddings and funerals.
“He was always there,” a parishioner said, “celebrating our successes and our victories and comforting us during our sad times.”
Both men did their work with remarkable humility.
‘To keep me from getting into trouble’
Father Patrick told anyone who would listen, “What’s the difference between a monkey and a monk? A monkey has a tail!” He’d also tell bookstore visitors, “The rest of the monks voted to have me out here to keep me from getting into trouble.”
On Monsignor Daz’s 50th anniversary as a priest, he told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter, “I have only one gift, and that’s stability. I can stay at my post.” He added, “It is the people of the parish who make even a guy like me look good.”
I don’t know if these unexpected vocational companions — from different worlds with distinct but similar ministries — ever cultivated a close friendship. Yet their paths continued to cross.
Daz’s parishioners visited the Huntsville monastery frequently, returning from these pilgrimages with blessings from Father Patrick and gifts of monk bread and honey. Daz and other priests met for an annual retreat at the monastery that Father Patrick called home.
In 2011, the Catholic Church relieved Monsignor Daz of his many duties. He moved to St. Joseph Villa retirement home in Salt Lake City at age 82. Father Patrick joined him there in 2017 after Holy Trinity Abbey closed.
The two men celebrated Mass together every day in the Villa chapel for several years, until health problems (and a pandemic) came along during their 10th decade of life. Monsignor Daz moved to an assisted living room on the Villa’s medical floor.
Father Patrick joined him on the same medical care floor in the summer of 2022. With a trip to heaven always on his mind, the sweet old monk told everyone within earshot, “My bags are packed.”
Father Patrick finally bought a ticket for that eternal journey on Aug. 13, 2022. His itinerary, of course, included a stop at his old abbey’s quaint little cemetery in the Ogden Valley.
A few days before all that happened, I stood at his bedside, held his hand, kissed his head, and thanked him for being my friend for half a century. Although sad as I left his room, I had to smile when I saw Monsignor Daz standing peacefully just a few feet away. It was the last time the two men were together.
Due to health, Daz could not attend when Bishop Oscar Solis and a dozen priests celebrated the Catholic Mass of the Resurrection to honor the long fruitful life of the beloved Trappist monk. Afterward, they walked his casket to the white hearse and sang farewell to him in Latin.
And then, just like Rudolph Daz did 72 years ago this month, Father Patrick’s brother priests helped him catch one last ride to the Huntsville monastery.
Michael Patrick O’Brien (https://michaelpobrien.com) is a writer and attorney living in Salt Lake City who often represents The Salt Lake Tribune in legal matters. His book “Monastery Mornings: My Unusual Boyhood Among the Saints and Monks,” about growing up with the monks at an old Trappist monastery in Huntsville, was published by Paraclete Press in August 2021.