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Paddy Doyle and the ISE

Fr Paddy Doyle SJMany others besides Jesuits have felt the loss of Paddy Doyle SJ, former Irish Provincial, who passed away recently. Below is a piece from Robin Boyd, the second director of the Irish School of Ecumenics, who offers an intriguing perspective on Paddy’s contribution to the school at a crucial stage of its development.   “Slight in stature but strong in presence,” Boyd comments, “Paddy was a man of warmth and quiet friendliness, sometimes few in words, but the words were worth waiting for.”

Remembering Paddy Doyle SJ

By Robin Boyd

With the death on 14 September of Fr Patrick Doyle the Irish School of Ecumenics has lost a true friend and effective supporter. Born in Dublin in 1922, Paddy Doyle studied Physics at UCD, and became a research worker at ICI and the Research Institute; and it was not until he was thirty-two that he entered the Society of Jesus. He was ordained in 1963 and took his final vows at Milltown Park in 1974. He became Provincial of the Irish Jesuits in 1975, and was succeeded by Fr Joseph Dargan in 1980, the changeover happening at precisely the time when I entered on my term as Director of the ISE. So although he was no longer the Roman Catholic Patron of the School and President of the Academic Council by the time I assumed office, I knew that in those capacities he had played a vital part in the process whereby the School’s founder, Fr Michael Hurley, was succeeded by a Protestant, and not – as had been widely expected, not least by the Hierarchy – by a Catholic. The story is told by Michael in chapter 2 of The Irish School of Ecumenics (1970-2007).

It was – for Paddy and Michael as well as for the School – a very tense and difficult period; but Paddy was tactful as well as fearless, and was able to pilot the School through stormy waters not only safely but successfully. For myself I am glad to relate that my relations with Archbishop Dermot Ryan were always cordial; Paddy had smoothed the way. And I think I can truly say that had it not been for Paddy Doyle I might never have come to the ISE; and that was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Paddy was largely responsible for the establishment of Jesuit communities in the North of Ireland, first in Portadown(1980) and later in Belfast (1988). The Portadown experiment coincided with the development of the School’s Northern Ireland programme, when it first became affiliated with what was then the New University of Ulster. Paddy’s presence in Portadown was a great help and encouragement to Brian Lennon SJ and later Declan Deane SJ – who operated the Certificate programme from this base – as well as to me and other members of staff who were frequent visitors to “Iona”, the small but welcoming council house where Paddy lived.

Slight in stature but strong in presence, Paddy was a man of warmth and quiet friendliness, sometimes few in words, but the words were worth waiting for. He suffered a number of small strokes in 2002, and latterly lived at Cherryfield Lodge, where he continued to exercise a ministry of prayer. The last time I saw him, his powers of communication were sadly diminished, but his smile and the twinkle in his eye were still there. We give thanks to God for this good man.