William Joseph Gabriel Doyle was born in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, in Ireland on March 3, 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.
In the midst of such an active apostolate, he maintained a fervent spiritual life of union with his Eucharistic Lord, offering himself as a victim for the salvation of souls with the Divine Victim.
He was finally appointed during World War I chaplain of the 16th Irish Division, serving with 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 6th Royal Irish Rifles and the 7th Royal Irish Rifles. Having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.” This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
Fr Doyle’s body was never recovered.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON THE LIFE OF FR. DOYLE
Details on larger books about Fr Doyle can be found in the Resources section of this site.
With thanks to Dave in New York, a reader of this site who sent me the pamphlet, and to the Irish Messenger which originally published it in 1928, here is an excellent short pamphlet on the life of Fr Doyle. This booklet is especially helpful as it gives due recognition to the totality of Fr Doyle’s life, both before and during the war. Anyone who does not have the time or inclination to read one of the longer biographies will find this 24 page booklet to be an excellent overview of Fr Doyle’s life and spirituality.
(NOTE: This booklet refers, on page 8, to Fr Doyle “beating up unwilling and careless Catholics”. This means that he worked hard, and with success, to convert them, NOT that he physically beat them up!)
Also with thanks to Dave in New York and to the Irish Messenger which published it in 1932, here is a 32 page booklet with various stories from the life of Fr Doyle. These events are written as short stories (and in a style more typical of 1932 than that of today) but all are based on actual events from Fr Doyle’s life. It is less helpful than Fr Kelly’s 24 page biography, but is still worth reading.
NOTE: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these pdf files; if you don’t have it you can get it here These files are created from scanned booklets and are quite big files. Depending on the speed of your connection you may need to wait a little while to download them.