Father Francis G (Frank) Doyle, SJ

Born: 04 October 1931, Dublin
Entered: 07 September 1949, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois, Ireland
Ordained: 25 March 1963, Wah Yan College, Kowloon
Final Vows: 22 April 1977, St Francis Xavier, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Died: 17 March 2011, Arrupe, Quezon City, Manila

He was the first Jesuit to be ordained a priest in Hong Kong and his ordination was at Wah Yan College in Kowloon in 1963.

After an initial stint teaching at Wah Yan College, Father Doyle came to Singapore a few days after Father Tom Fitzgerald’s death in 1967 to take over editorship of the Malayan Catholic News, where his career with newspapers began. With little experience in newspaper work, he quickly learned on the job, and was soon making waves.

However, he had serious disagreements with Archbishop Michael Olcomendy over the paper’s contents and Father Doyle’s editorial approach. When the Jesuit superiors ignored hints from the archbishop to remove him, a formal request came to replace Father Doyle who then stepped down, one of a series of Jesuit editors who faced similar situations.

Father Doyle moved to Malaysia in 1969 where he stayed for the full 10 years allowed to a foreign resident by the government at that time. His work in Malaysia was very varied: helping out in parishes at weekends, being chaplain to two universities (at the same time), helping out in a pastoral institute (he was one of the founding directors of the Pastoral Institute in Kuala Lumpur), editing a diocesan newsletter (Herald), giving retreats, seminars and talks, teaching religion in schools, etc. In his final year (78-79) he was a parish priest.

In 1979, Father Doyle returned to Hong Kong. During his years in Hong Kong, he was at the forefront of many activities and was particularly active in the push for direct elections from 1988 into the early 1990s. He was also involved in UCAN (Union of Catholic Asian News) which was a Catholic news agency that covers the East and Southeast Asian region, before going to the Sunday Examiner of the Hong Kong Diocese. He is remembered from his years at the editor’s desk of the Sunday Examiner (1991 to 1993) as an extremely good speaker of Cantonese, as well as a joyful and enthusiastic person. He seemed to be able to do almost everything from writing articles to designing advertisements and doing the artwork himself.

Father Doyle left Hong Kong when he finished at the Sunday Examiner and returned to Ireland where he worked in high school ministry and also retreat work. He never forgot his Cantonese though and kept contact with Chinese people in Ireland and England, as well as in Vancouver and New York for many years. On Sundays he would joined the Dublin Chinese community for Eucharist. For some of his summer, he became a curate in an all-Chinese community in New York.

He continued to write, especially for prayers and reflections. For many years he wrote the Living Space commentaries, which are reflections on daily Mass readings and the saints, on the Sacred Space website. (https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/) He was also a regular contributor to three Catholic publications in Malaysia, namely, Catholic Asian News, Shalom and Herald, of which he had once been the editor. Of these, pride of place must go to his writings which included a voluminous history of the Jesuits in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong (unpublished).

In 2010 which is his 79th year, he was asked, and he readily agreed, to come out of retirement and go to the Philippines, where for 10 months he was a spiritual director to the 50 or so scholastics at Arrupe International Residence in Manila.

He died peacefully in Manila on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2011, after a short illness following a severe stroke in February.

Book: 50 years of the parish of the Church of St Ignatius, 2012

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