An exhibition on Father Willie Doyle SJ will take place in Dalkey Library, Dublin, from Tuesday 18 July until Friday 18 August 2017.
The exhibition, by the Irish Jesuit Archives, will feature graphic short display panels by illustrator Alan Dunne entitled A Perfect Trust.
The exhibition will be launched by province archivist Father Fergus O’Donoghue SJ on Thursday 20 July at 6.30pm.
On Tuesday 15 August, Damien Burke, archivist with the Irish Jesuit Archives, will give a lecture on Father Doyle in Dalkey Library at 6.30pm.
All are welcome to the launch, lecture and the exhibition.
William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, on 3 March 1873. He was the youngest of seven children, four boys and three girls, out of which two boys became Jesuits, another died a few days before his priestly ordination and one of the three girls became a Sister of Mercy: four vocations out of seven children.
He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at the age of 18 after reading St. Alphonsus’ book “Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State”. Soon after his ordination in 1907, his superiors appointed him on the mission staff for five years. From 1908 to 1915, he gave no less than 152 missions and retreats. His fame as preacher, confessor and spiritual director spread wide and far, and he had a special gift to hunt out the most hardened and neglected sinners and to bring them back with him to the church for confession.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Fr Doyle volunteered, knowing that many would be in need of guidance and assistance in the time to come. He was one of thirty-two Irish Jesuit chaplains in the First World War. He landed in France in 1915 with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, serving as chaplain. He went to the front, serving in many major battles, including the Battle of the Somme. Out on the battlefield Doyle risked his life countless times, seeking out men where they fell dying in the mud to be with them in their last moment and to offer absolution; those who served with him described him as fearless. His selflessness was not just given to those who shared his faith; Doyle was a champion too among the Protestant Ulstermen in his battalion.
Fr Doyle was killed in the Battle of Ypres on 16 August 1917 by a German shell while out helping fallen soldiers in no man’s land. Three other Irish Jesuits were killed in the war along with two who died from illness. Fr Doyle was awarded the Military Cross, and he was put forward for the Victoria Cross posthumously but did not receive it.
The commemoration this year by the Irish Province of the Jesuits includes the Dalkey Library exhibition. The National Museum of Ireland also intends to exhibit some of his chaplain effects from the front. Fr Bernard McGuckian SJ tells Fr Doyle’s story as part of a collection of essays in the book Irish Jesuit chaplains in the First World War.