- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

CREST HILL, Ill. (AP) - The Rev. John Doyle, pastor of St. Ambrose and St. Anne Catholic Churches in Crest Hill, is a people person who will be missed dearly.

So said Lynn Siefert, who said she does various work for both churches. Siefert said Doyle never says no, is supportive of people at both parishes, and is kindhearted and generous.

Siefert is happy to see Doyle’s retirement Mass will include music by Joliet’s Polka Mass-sters, since St. Anne was the first church to host the band more than 20 years ago.

“You come out (of Mass) with such a great feeling,” Siefert said.

Doyle said it was really the St. Anne parishioners who effected the first Polka Mass-sters appearance at St. Anne.

“The people kept pestering me,” Doyle said. “They said, ‘We have to have them, Father.’ I didn’t think it was such a great idea, but so many people asked for it that I thought, ‘Well, we’d better have it.’ And it was very reverent, very nice.”

Although Doyle is retiring from parish work, he is not planning to retire from ministry. Before he can say Mass and hear confessions, he wants to improve his speech and become steadier on his feet, he added.

“My hope is to become a bishop when I retire,” Doyle said with a chuckle.


Recent health challenges

In 2011, Doyle began having trouble walking. Tests showed a nonmalignant spot on his brain. By 2015, the tumor had grown and was touching the area of the brain that controlled his senses.

“I lost my speech,” Doyle said of his post-surgery experiences, “but it is coming back.”

Doyle had brain surgery April 1 and again April 3. He then spent a month at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago before going to Our Lady of Angels retirement community in Joliet to recover.

He soon will move into The Inn at Willow Falls in Crest Hill and is easing back into life. For instance, Doyle said he recently attended a performance at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

“I saw ‘Peter Pan,’ and it was absolutely delightful,” Doyle said.


Early influences

Doyle said he always wanted to become a priest. He grew up on Chicago’s South Side in an era when one priest a year was ordained, at least three nuns served every parish, and Catholic schools had enrollments of 700 children and 50 students a class, he said.

“People filled the pews, and you’d get tired of hearing confessions,” Doyle said, “which you don’t get now.

Doyle said he met so many good priests that he wanted to become a priest, too, and convert the world. He entered seminary at the same time he entered high school and said he was “kicked out” in his early 20s because he couldn’t master Latin.

But Romeo Blanchette, former bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, wanted to work with the 23-year-old Doyle, who was ordained June 7, 1958, at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet.

Doyle said he served at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church for four years and was transferred several times to different churches throughout the diocese before coming to St. Anne in 1988.

“When the pastor at St. Ambrose left, the bishop gave me both parishes,” Doyle said.


Impressions today

Attendance has dwindled at both churches, and Doyle believes the priest sexual abuse scandals in the early 1990s contributed. Doyle said he likes the current focus on evangelization and believes the Catholic Church could benefit from more of it.

“Maybe we get a bit self-complacent,” Doyle said. After a pause, he added, “No doubt, we do.”

Doyle is proud of the 30 years he served as the diocesan chaplain for the Boy Scout religious awards and for the 20 years he ministered at Stateville Correctional Center, which Doyle said he did until 2010, when he developed trouble with his feet.

“I felt that, because they were God’s children, they needed to be ministered to, and I learned a lot about them,” Doyle said of his time at Stateville. “Not all of them are guilty; many of them are innocent, but every one of them are human beings.’

What about his goal to convert the world? Doyle laughed good-naturedly.

“No, I don’t think I’ve changed the world,” Doyle said. “But you realize how good people are. You are grateful for the time that you say Mass, give the sacraments and meet people in the hospital. I’ve been inspired more by people than scandalized by them, I think.”


Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, https://bit.ly/1dAehxQ


Information from: The Herald-News, https://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews

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