Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Changing Of The Guard In Florida

At Jesuit High School, a fond goodbye
Father Joseph Doyle retires from Jesuit High School of Tampa.
In a May 9 letter to parents, Father Joseph Doyle wrote, “During my time here, I have sought to care for your sons, encourage them, and also provide strong discipline for them,” he wrote. “You gave me the opportunity to have the ‘sons’ I could never have as a celebate.”
As president of Tampa Jesuit High School, Father Joseph Doyle opposed the building of a 60-foot-high, four-column bell tower as part of an $8 million capital campaign that brought new buildings and extensive site upgrades to the Catholic school a few years ago. “He wasn’t in favor of the bell tower, but the students were,” said Jesuit principal Joseph Sabin. “There was one vote for no, and that was his.” Perhaps the Jesuit priest will become fonder of the centerpiece now that he is so much a part of it.

The president’s relic of St. Claude la Colombiere, a 17th-century Jesuit, has been cemented into the tower; Father Doyle’s name will join those of Jesuit teachers and saints engraved on its bricks.

Those tributes were part of the school’s goodbye to its longest-reigning president, who retired in May after a dozen years of leadership. The people of Jesuit had long planned a proper retirement celebration. What no one anticipated was that Father Doyle, 71, and a Jesuit of almost 50 years, would suffer a stroke six weeks before he was set to step down. The effects of the stroke slowed the president’s walk at the event. His voice, known for its ability to project and persuade, was soft when he addressed Bishop Robert N. Lynch, area priests, the Jesuit community and other friends who came to say goodbye. “(Bishop Lynch) delivered a beautiful homily about Father Doyle, and you could tell it was absolutely heartfelt,” Sabin said. “The number of people who came out, it was a tribute as to how many people and how many souls he touched here.”

At the retirement ceremony, the principal recalled Father Doyle’s first days at Jesuit in the mid-60s. He was Mr. Doyle then, a young man in formation with the Jesuits, at the school teaching English to Sabin and his classmates. “Father Doyle has a gift for speaking, for finding just the right words. It was evident years ago as much as it is today,” the principal said. “He was different than the other Jesuit scholastics at the time. He had a New York accent. He had premature white hair.

Mr. Doyle was tough but also dedicated to helping the students. He would tutor them in any subject in which they were stuggling. “He grew very close to the guys back then,” the principal said. “A lot of them still come by to see him, or write, and so on.” The priest was presented with several gifts. He learned that the school had raised $85,000 toward a $175,000 endowment that would provide enough money to fund a scholarship for one student a year who could not otherwise attend the school due to a lack of financial resources. “His goal has been to keep Jesuit affordable for our students,” the principal said at the goodbye. “He has worked hard to increase the amount of financial aid available to make it possible for academically capable students of limited financial means to attend and enrich this school.” The priest also was given a quilt created by Linda Eisenhart, the school’s adviser for development. The quilt contains the name of every student who attended Jesuit during the years the priest served as a teacher and president. It also displayed photos from the school’s past. Father Doyle wrote a letter to school parents May 9. In it, he thanked the Jesuit family for his goodbye celebration. He thanked parents for sending their sons to the school and said he felt like a father to the boys. “During my time here, I have sought to care for your sons, encourage them, and also provide strong discipline for them,” he wrote. “You gave me the opportunity to have the ‘sons’ I could never have as a celebate.” He said he would work hard to recover and return to serve as a priest in the Tampa Bay community. He also reflected on the stroke.

“In some ways having a stroke is not that bad.” he said. “St. Ignatius said that you have to learn how to be dependent, and through your humility you can receive care from others as a gift of love.

Father Doyle has left Tampa for Louisiana. Sabin said his leadership will be missed. History will recall his brick-and-mortar successes, the principal said, but his friends will recall so much more. “He was so many things to so many different people: a confidant, a confessor, a priest … a friend,” the principal said. “He probably touched my life in every one of those areas.” “Father Doyle leaves Jesuit a better school than when he arrived.” Jesuit Father Richard Hermes, 44, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in New Orleans, will replace Father Doyle as president of Jesuit High. His term begins at the end of May.

Link to the Florida Catholic article (here)


Anonymous said...

Another true Jesuit priest
leaves the high school
education scene--he objected to the "bell tower" because it was
ostentatious and that is why
I consider him a true Jesuit.

Joseph Fromm said...

That is understandable.However, the Bell Tower is the feature most easily seen by the hundreds of thousands that regularly attend football games at Raymond James Stadium. It has become a Jesuit evangalistic tool.