Remembrances for our Deceased Brothers
Fr James Doyle, O.Carm.
Given at the Memorial Mass in Gort Muire, Dublin, on Friday November 19, 2004 by S. Hession, O.Carm.
Today, in this environment of prayer, our sympathies go out to Jim’s sister Mai, to nephew and nieces, and to his family, his relatives and a huge circle of friends that only Jim could muster about him, and finally to his Carmelite Brothers and Sisters at home, abroad, and in Zimbabwe to whom we say ‘nediwo’. Today we pray that Jim, along with his parents and his late brother will grow forever in the infinite penetration of the wealth of the living God.
Jim’s life was long but not nearly half long enough, colourful, very influential and packed full of work and fun which only Jim could balance in the right proportions.
When the Provincial asked me to do this homily I said “Yes,” probably prompted subconsciously by something Jim once told me that he never said “no” to a request from “on high” and never asked for a change or said “No” to one. We were friends enough for me to ask him if he even as a counsellor, and a good one too depending on your point of view, had ever dropped a hint as to what he might like to do. As usual he kept his mouth shut. Sure none of us is perfect and Jim would be the first to admit to that.
Jim grew up in Killaloe, Co. Clare, and was educated in Sexton Street Christian Brothers School in Limerick, and called to St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College. He made contact with the Carmelites because he noticed they had Mission fields and the “White cloak” finally caught him, but he never said why. I have a hazy memory that it was Fr Conleth Fitzgerald who worked the oracle as only he could. He could be very persuasive. Jim pursued studies which came very easy to him in Kinsale Novitiate, U.C.D, and Milltown Park. He was ordained in Dublin in 1964. After a stint in Whitefriars Street he was sent out to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) along with Frankie Tobin. He was posted to Mount Melleray Mission for orientation and Shona studies and on completion he was appointed to Christi Mambo to teach Maths and Latin and whatever. While there he became very involved in Pastoral work among the villages.
Towards the end of the 1960’s Jim and I were posted to the Junior Seminary – St Charles Lwanga – which became home for both of us for many years ‘til the Mission was almost closed for me and then for him. That was a big wrench for us both. He returned there after Zimbabwe became Independent and remained for a few years more.
During his time at St Charles he opened up a whole area for the Church, visiting remote areas in the Chimanimani valley on his familiar blue Honda motorbike, negotiating his way along paths through the ‘bundu’. For reasons best known to himself he built churches instead of the ‘traditional outschools’ as focal and gathering-points. I never asked why and I am sorry now I did not.
Some years ago the unique method of Clare All-Ireland hurling training techniques were highlighted. It was not all that unique a system at all as Jim and his Honda had already pioneered a somewhat similiar one. They were a familiar sight at day break leading his Cup winning teams up and down the steep inclines of the Melsetter Road. He was a gifted teacher, school adminstrator, welcoming new ideas and encouraging people to implement them. He was dedicated, committed and nowhere was this more in evidence than in the wholehearted way he pushed himself while recovering from a motorbike accident. He had high standards and academic ability that he never flaunted but allowed to percolate as occasions demanded.
Jim was gregarious, loved a party and a good old sing-song of which he was the heart and soul. He was a bit of a prankster too with a fast retort. Once on a holiday in Durban, which was our first break from the mission in Rhodesia, himself, the late Br. Ignatius and myself went down to Durban in a borrowed car – as mission cars could not be taken out of the country or dioceses in those days. An American lay mission helper came to our aid with her VW through the good offices of Ignatius. One evening we decided to go to the Cinema in Durban and as Ignatius drove along the promenade telling us how strict the police were he wondered how to get to Smith Street for the cinema. Jim saw a street and shouted to Ignatius turn up right so off we go but as we reached the top of the street we suddenly realised we had come up a down street and were confronted with a platoon of police. Panic set in and thanks to someone’s prayers somewhere the car did not explode. Jim, ever the diplomat and not admitting mistaken instructions with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye suggested he’d tell the police we’ve made a mistake, we’re from Rhodesia and going to the bioscope. As a result we got a nice parking place and the best way to get back to the O.F.M.’s – our ever hospitable hosts. The Ignatius approach could break down barriers even in South Africa.
In the early days of the birth of Zimbabwe as a nation Jim as First Counsellor had to take on the job as Commissary Provincial. Typically, he was here, there and everywhere giving himself selflessly, unremittingly, and tirelessly to the job of service.
After Melsetter he found himself in Hatfield, Harare, where he gave himself as Prior and Parish Priest wholeheartedly to the pastoral care and development of that parish and parochial area. He had a beautiful church built at Hatfield and I’m sure there are many anecdotes to be told of that venture.
Jim’s next move was across the city to Highlands and the Student house at Nazareth House Orphanage. True to form, it was not too long before he entered into negotiating the transfer and acquisition of the property as a Carmelite foundation. John McGrath, the Commissary Provincial, observed: “Jim has his own way of doing business I know and we’ll keep it between Jim and myself” and, to quote Martin O’Regan, “sufficit – enough said, that’ll do.” Then he set out to revamp the building to make it suitable for modern day student formation and he set it all up in beautiful kitchen and recreational gardens. The tennis and basketball courts are testaments to his love of sport and its place in a healthy lifestyle. He had the campus equipped with up to date IT equipment. None of your “stub of a pencil and scrap of paper,” as Fr. Patsy Keenan would quote a saying of Fr Conleth Fitzgerald, for our Jim. He was a determined and fierce competitor who chased every stroke to the last “tee and pin” and would not dare overlook the nineteenth. On behalf of Jim I would like to say a very sincere ‘thank you’ and ‘ God reward’ to all of his benefactors everywhere for helping him make his vision for the Church and for the Carmelites come true.
That is most of the biographical detail and I know it is outside the remit of a funeral homily. It would be my contention in my naïveté, and it would certainly be derided by Jim for thinking that a number of gospel episodes underpinned and drove him. Jim did not wear his religion on his sleeve but it was rock solid – based on the Gospel episodes of “Go, teach all nations, baptise;” “The story of the good Samaritan;” “Turn the other cheek;” “Go the extra mile, give the poor your cloak;” “Where two or three are gathered in my name.” “Do to no one what you would not want done to you;” “Forgive your brother on the way;” “Do not let the sun sink on your anger.”
Armed with his God given traits of character and these Gospel principles Jim was at ease and could relate to and with people of all ages and ethnic groups and of all religious persuasions and none. He was always available to help and guide and never seemed to notice the toll on himself.
If I have overlooked or omitted anything I am sorry as Jim and his life deserves nothing short of the very best. As he once said to a reluctant singer at a party, “Give us the words we will get the air outside.” He was exceptionally generous with everything.
In our grief we can look for comfort to the words of Cardinal Newman who wrote:
God beholds you…
God calls you by name…
God views you in your day of rejoicing
and in your day of sorrow.
God sympathises in your hopes and your temptations…
God hears your voice,
the beating of your heart
and your very breathing.
You do not love yourself better
than God loves you.
You cannot shrink from pain
more than God dislikes your bearing it.
And the Words of the Prophet Isaiah may also help soothe us:
the Lord who created you says,
‘Do not be afraid…
When you pass through deep waters,
I will be with you;
your troubles will not overwhelm you.’ (Isaiah 43:1-2)
That is the God Jim appeared before last Saturday evening and he did not appear empty handed as he came bearing a life of goodness and self-giving and zeal for the Lord’s kingdom. He was a highly principled and motivated person.
He would have also carried along with him the banners of Christian formation established in his beloved Clare, Wexford, Carmel and in the Gospels. No doubt the good Lord was able to say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter the joys of the kingdom.” And with Doyle around there would be some party.
Today in thanking God for Jim’s gifts which enhanced the Church, the Carmelite order, and indeed all of our lives we express through our prayers our gratitude to Jim for giving himself so generously, and to his family and relations for sharing him with us. Parents and families make great sacrifices of self denial by allowing us, like Jim, to follow our Vision. Thank you.
Thanks for patiently listening, to God’s Spirit for the recalls and inspirations, to my proof readers, the shortcomings are mine, the source Jim.
Sin a bhuil. Ar deis Dhe go raibh a animn dhilis.