B.C. bishop was catechetical pioneer
By LAUREEN McMAHON
pioneer of the Canadian Catholic catechetical movement, Bishop
Emeritus W. Emmett Doyle of Nelson, has died in Kelowna at the age of
He was born in Vancouver and was a member of the numerous local
Doyles, a family whose forefathers came to Canada from County Wexford
in Ireland. It was a favourite pastime in his retirement years to
trace his family tree, said a friend.
A long-time religious educator, Bishop Doyle served as Nelson
bishop for 32 years before retiring in 1990. At the time of his
appointment he was a priest in the Edmonton diocese.
Bishop Doyle submitted his resignation to the Holy See when he
turned 75 in May of 1988, but he continued to act as diocesan
administrator until Father Peter Mallon of the Vancouver archdiocese
was appointed the next bishop of Nelson in 1990. Bishop Eugene J.
Cooney, installed in 1996, is the current bishop.
The bishop had been living at Kelowna’s St. Elizabeth Seton House
of Prayer on Chute Lake Road prior to his death, but he and others
were evacuated when raging forest fires threatened to consume the
He was staying with friends until it was safe to return but had
been ailing recently and died peacefully in his sleep Sept. 14, said a
Seton House staff member.
Seton House is located up the mountain from Kelowna’s Mission
district and was directly in the path of the fire. While the facility
was spared, its administrator, Father Don Wilson, lost his mobile home
which stood across the road.
The house of prayer was one of three which Bishop Doyle opened
while in Nelson. He also established Anawim House in Nelson and
Marywood House in Cranbrook. He invited the contemplative Sisters of
the Precious Blood from Edmonton to make a foundation in Nelson in
Bishop Doyle was appointed head of the Canadian Bishops’ Office for
Religious Education when the Come to the Father catechetical series
was expanded into English Canada from Quebec, where it had originated
more than a decade before Vatican II.
While the Come to the Father program was not used in the Vancouver
archdiocese, said Vancouver’s archdiocesan Office of Religious
Education director Chuck Luttrell, the Born of the Spirit series,
which evolved from Come to the Father, has been used by a number of
Bishop Doyle served as national Canadian director of the
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine from 1962 to 1986. He was
President of what was then the national Office for Religious Education
from 1966 to 1970, national director of the National Office of
Religious Education from 1966-1967, and chairman of the Episcopal
Commission for Religious Education from 1966 to 1969.
In a talk to religious educators in Ottawa after his retirement, he
told the story of a catechist once saying to him, “My spiritual life
began when I started teaching the Come to the Father series.”
“Those of us who are teachers and catechists have to be born in the
Spirit ourselves if we’re going to teach the catechism,” the bishop
said. “We have to live it.”
After retiring from the Nelson diocese, Bishop Doyle returned to
Edmonton, where he continued to work in retirement. He also spent a
few months in the Kamloops diocese before moving to Seton House at age
A funeral Mass for Bishop Doyle was offered at Immaculate
Conception Church in Kelowna on Sept. 18. The next day the bishop’s
body was flown to Nelson for interment.
Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, who attended the bishop’s funeral in
Kelowna, recalled the many kindnesses Bishop Doyle offered him when he
was appointed Bishop of Kamloops.
“He gave me a lot of fatherly advice on being a bishop which I
appreciated very much. He also gave me a lot of historical background
on the Church in B.C. and particularly about religious education at a
time when I was named to the Commission on Religious Education. I
found this very helpful indeed.”
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