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Father Charles Doyle

Distinguished Alumnus Award conferral speech given at the 2008 Alumni Reunion

Delivered on July 29, 2008 by Fr. Brendan Moss, OSB


Fr. Charles DoyleFor 80 years, the alumni of Saint Meinrad have gathered on an annual basis to celebrate their affiliation and love for this place.  Eighteen years ago, the alumni association began honoring deserving alumni as “distinguished” at this annual reunion. 

 

The first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award was the late Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and founder of Bellarmine University.

 

Other recipients of the award are Benedictine Father Theodore Heck; Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders; the late Father Jim Sweeney of Indianapolis; Benedictine Father Boniface Hardin; Monsignor Jack Bendik of the Diocese of Scranton; the late Monsignor Jerry Neufelder of the Diocese of Evansville; Father Larry Richardt of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis; musician Charlie Gardner of Indianapolis; Benedictine Father Cyprian Davis; the late Fr. Bill Deering of the Diocese of Evansville; and Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger. 

 

Last year, this esteemed alumni association honored its first alumna as distinguished.  We are pleased to note the presence of that distinguished alumna this evening – Ursuline Sister Margaret Ann Hagan.  Welcome back, Sister Margaret Ann.  We want to thank you for joining us again this year, as well as your fellow Distinguished Alumni, Charlie Gardner and Fr. Larry Richardt.

 

Tonight, this esteemed alumni association honors its 14th recipient. 

Charles Doyle entered Saint Meinrad in the summer of 1945, just as the Second World War was coming to a close.  He was raised in the small northern Indiana town of Nappanee, well known for its Amish population.  So well known for its Amish population was Nappanee that the Doyle family was the only Catholic one in town.

 

He attended James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend before entering Saint Meinrad.  Once here he would serve in a number of leadership roles: Editor of Campus Chatter, Sacristan, and Student Body Treasurer.  Following ordination, he continued to prove himself as a leader in all of his assignments – as an elementary school administrator, as a high school educator, as chaplain at Norman Beatty Mental Hospital, as counselor for troubled youth at Hoosier Boys Town, as an inner-city pastor, as a civil rights leader, as a lawyer and public defender, as a death row abolitionist, to name only a few.

 

To help give us a clearer picture of the work and ministry of Father Charles Doyle, we have with us this evening four of his brother priests from the Diocese of Gary.  Each one will speak briefly about certain aspects of Father Doyle’s life.  We will begin with Monsignor Joe Semancik, a classmate of Father Doyle’s at Saint Meinrad.  Monsignor Semancik…

 

Some of us may not be aware that Father Doyle also had a career in law.  To share a bit about Father Doyle’s service as a court-appointed public defender and attorney, I am pleased to introduce Father Joe Murphy of the Ordination Class of 1967.

 

Father Doyle was motivated to pursue his law degree as a means of justice for the incarcerated who had no one else to speak for them.  He knew this because of his work as a prison chaplain.  To give us a glimpse into this area of Fr. Doyle’s ministry, it is my pleasure to call upon Father Tom Mischler of the Ordination Class of 1981.

 

In addition to all his other ministries, Father Doyle kept a full-time job as well.  For nearly 30 years, he served as pastor of St. Anne of the Dunes in Beverly Shores.  I am pleased to ask his neighboring pastor, Father Jerry Schweitzer of the Ordination Class of 1971, to share some insight into the kind of parish pastor Father Doyle was.

The Saint Meinrad Alumni Association is not the first to recognize Father Doyle’s contributions to church and society.  A few of these other recognitions include:

 

  • “A Man for All Seasons Award” from the Academy of Fine Arts of Chicago in 1975.

 

  • “Honorary Chaplain to the Indiana House of Representatives” - 1980.

 

  • In 1984, an Indiana House of Representatives resolution was made recognizing Father Doyle’s services to the disadvantaged of his community and the state of Indiana.

 

  • In 1996, Father Doyle received The Life Achievement Award from the Indiana Public Defender Council.

 

  • He was honored with The Whittock Award from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union in 1998.

 

  • Also in 1998, Father Doyle was recognized with The Exceptional Lifetime Services Award from the Indiana House of Representatives.

 

  • Again in 1998, he was honored with The Sagamore of the Wabash Award conferred by then-Governor Frank O’Bannon.  The Sagamore of the Wabash Award is the highest honor given by the Governor of Indiana.

 

  • Father Doyle received The Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Michigan City Human Rights Commission in 2001.

 

  • As mentioned previously, he received the Liberty Bell Award from the Michigan City Bar Association in 2002.

 

Yes, Father Doyle has been recognized many times for his remarkable contributions.  It is hoped that the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award will be one of Father Doyle’s most cherished awards.

 

We have heard from a number of his brother priests, all of whom have given us fitting testimony to Father Doyle’s worthiness of this award.  There is one more side to Father Doyle that I would like to share with you, and that is his heart of prayer.

 

When called upon to lead the invocation at the Indiana House of Representatives in January 1973, Father Doyle proceeded with the following:

 

“Lord, this chamber snaps and crackles with power. Its voltage will shortly run out of here on invisible lines, tingling some, shocking others; warming some, burning others; until it touches nearly every man, woman and child in this state. Those most vulnerable to its thrust and most needful of its support are the most powerless: the guy at Michigan City making license plates; the teenager eating his starch at Boys School; the woman with the vacant stare weaving potholders at Beatty Hospital; the welfare mother trying to make $25 last 30 days; the second grader learning to read with a tattered text.

 

“It is truly an awesome responsibility – wielding this kind of power. These men and women have courageously accepted its fearsomeness. Let them now enjoy the light of Your Wisdom so that in their legislation they may balance caution with boldness, and a dispassionate study of complicated problems with a human caring. But most of all, they need compassion in order to help heal the bruises by which daily brushes with unfairness, injustice and hardship mark us all.

 

“I realize these are divine attributes I am asking for, but nothing less will do the job. Amen.”

 

Indeed, amen.  Father Doyle, nothing less will do now than to honor you, and thank you, and present you with Saint Meinrad’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

 

Father Charles Doyle’s acceptance speech

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