Fr. James E. Coyle Commemoration Day (Part I)
The Psalmist says: Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning.I believe that after years of weeping, sadness and darkness regarding the murder of Fr. James E. Coyle, almost 83 years ago, that today is a day of joy and light! My only regret is that I am not able to celebrate this commemorative day with you.
I blush at the privilege of being associated with such a holy, righteous and courageous man as Fr. Coyle. It is also wonderful to be lifting up his life and memory with all of the participants today. In particular, I want to recognize:
Fr. Richard Donohoe, Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, who represents our beloved Bishop David, and the diocesan family. Mr. John Wright, Jr., who has led me and many others to better appreciate the life and witness of Fr. Coyle.
Mr. Lee Fisher, who represents all that is good in John Carroll Catholic High School, and Mr. Lee Bruno, representing the Bruno family, renowned for their faith and generosity to the Church, community, and this outstanding Catholic school.
I can vaguely recall hearing the story of Fr. Coyle’s courageous life and tragic death when I arrived in Birmingham some 24 years ago to begin my ministry in the Episcopal Church. Approximately two years ago, this vague recollection of Father’s earthly life became a vividencounter with his current life in the Lord.
I had been struggling for over a year, considering a possible return to the church of my infancy-The Roman Catholic Church-when I came across a Fr. Coyle Memorial Card at a local Catholic bookstore. I felt compelled to immediately locate and pray at Fr. Coyle’s memorial in Elmwood Cemetery. Within minutes, I humbly stood before the beautifully strong Celtic cross that honors this holy man and marks his resting place. I prayerfully introduced myself, prayed and gave thanks for his life, and asked his intercession that I might know if I should return to the Catholic Church. I will save the precious details for another time, but I will bear witness that my life was altered from that encounter onward. Shortly thereafter, I laid down my priestly garments and ministry upon the altar of an Episcopal Church and journeyed home to the church of my birth and baptism-the Catholic Church.
Over the past several months, I have spent time in the living memory of Fr. Coyle with Fr. Donohoe and John Wright. These reflective and prayerful gatherings led to the genesis of The Father James E. Coyle Memorial Project. It is our hope that the sharing of the life and death of this holy man may promote greater understanding,reconciliation and peace among all of God’s children. The Project is an ongoing and cooperative work among many people, including you. In the coming days we will build the structure of the Project upon the foundation of Fr. Coyle’s sacrificial life, his emphasis upon the dignity of every human being, and his call upon others to sacrifice on behalf of the Faith. His closing hand-written entry in the Pulpit Announcements of August 7, 1921, the final Sunday before his murder on Thursday, August 11, 1921, typifies the soul of this man, his call upon others, and the spirit with which this Project is undertaken. His final entry:
Give, give till it hurts- then and only then is there sacrifice.
We trust that by God’s grace the Coyle Project may spawn many valuable undertakings such as:
- The Coyle Library Commemoration Day.
- The FatherCoyle.org interactive website.
- The Fr. Coyle Documentary.
- The re-publishing of Fr. Coyle related writings and the publishing of new works.
- The Father Coyle Society.
- And whatever else our Lord desires for us to do…
Today offers an important glimpse of the gracious gifts the Lord will reveal to many, not least of whom are the precious students, faculty and staff of John Carroll Catholic High School and those who visit here. As this beautiful portrait is unveiled, I am reminded of the words of Saint Nicholas of Cusa who said: In every face is the Face of all faces, veiled and in a riddle. May all who view this portrait of this holy man behold the Face of God. May the lifting of this veil today bear fruit in the conversion of souls to: Christ, His Church and the love of all humanity. We may be assured that the holy life and death of Fr. James E. Coyle will continue to bear much fruit, for his Savior told us:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Sincerely, Jim Pinto, Jr. Founding Member of The Father James E. Coyle Memorial Project