Three brothers swap slide rules for soutanes

By David tucker

The Doyle brothers from Murrintown: Fr Jim, newly-ordained Fr Rory and Fr Brian.
The Doyle brothers from Murrintown: Fr Jim, newly-ordained Fr Rory and Fr Brian.

The Doyle family of Sallystown, Murrintown, is three times blessed. At one stage they had three engineers as sons, now they have three priests, all of whom gave up their slide rules for soutanes.

The latest take a vocation, as a member of the Franciscan Greyfriars, is Fr Rory Doyle, aged 41, a former St Peter's student, who was ordained in Liverpool by Archbishop Kevin McDonald, Archbishop Emeritus of Southwark, on March 25.

His twin. another former engineer, Fr Brian Doyle, was ordained as a Dominican father by Bishop Denis Brennan in Murrintown Church in 2011 and eldest son Jim, aged 44, was ordained for the Diocese of Ferns 11 years ago and was a curate in Bunclody before his recent transfer to Monamolin.

Twins Fr Brian and Fr Rory have PhDs in engineering while Fr Jim worked as a civil engineer both in Ireland and as a volunteer with Concern in Cambodia and Burundi, where his vocation story began.

Fr Jim joined the seminary when he was 27.

'In some ways I'm an unlikely priest but my brothers are a lot more unlikely! The reaction when some people heard they were going to be priests was 'what?!',' he told the Irish Catholic.

Recalling his life-changing experience in Cambodia he explains, 'In a country like that you are surrounded by poverty and you really start to feel grateful for all the things you've got.'

He was based in a remote village along with two other Irish men and an English woman.

'We were all around the same age and had a great time, but the days seemed to last forever.'

With time on his hands, he started reading more: 'One of the guys was from Northern Ireland and his father was a strong Catholic and he used to send him out books. I think I was really searching.'

He said that towards the end of his stay in Cambodia, he began praying the rosary for his twin brothers. Though he had remained a practising Catholic even during the heady days of university in Galway, he describes his experience in Cambodia as the start of his conversion.

Back in Ireland for Christmas, he told Rory and Brian about what he had been reading. 'To my surprise they were enthusiastic and later they joined prayer groups.'

After his time in Burundi and on his return to Ireland, Jim contacted the vocations director for the diocese of Ferns and in due course was sent to study at the French seminary in Ars. He pays tribute to his twin brothers' role in supporting his decision.

When Fr Jim returned from Cambodia, Brian read one of the books he brought with him. A reflection by the Dutch writer Henri Nouwen on the Emmaus story 'spoke' to him and he began to explore his faith more deeply. He was 22.

'At that time the three of us were ready to be converted. I began to realise that I didn't really pray. I only went to Mass on a Sunday. Even as a student I would have missed a few Sundays. The Catholic religion was in my blood but I wasn't the most devoted Catholic in the world.'

'I don't know if I would have got to that stage if the three of us hadn't been together in our faith. They were a great support to me and they still are a great support to me.'

It was this mutual support which helped Fr Rory Doyle to find his way into the Conventual Franciscans. He studied at the order's formation house in Canterbury in the UK.

Fr Rory said he grew up in a family home and 'saw marriage as the ideal state in life. Other people might have seen their parents fight all the time and marriage may have frightened them but it never frightened me; it was always something that I desired.'

Asked how his parents viewed having three of their sons as priests, Fr Rory told this newspaper that 'with me being the last they have got used to it by now, although it took them by surprise when we all abandoned our civil engineering careers and joined the priesthood'.

Fr Rory said he first thought about the priesthood when he was at Queens in his 20s.

'I was doing a doctorate at the time and decided to finish my studies and when I had I decided to do something about it,' he said.

'It was a difficult decision. I think you always assume that you will meet someone, get married and have kids and the prospect of not doing so took some time to come to terms with,' he said.

Fr Rory, who is now happily based in Dublin, says he feels delighted now that he has been ordained.

'In one sense it's the end of a journey and in another sense it's the start of another.'

He said he was optimistic that after years of declining vocations, there could be a change under way, albeit a gradual one.

'Our order has been very lucky and in our formation house there were 12 men all of who had joined since I did,' he said.

But when Fr Jim returned from Cambodia, Brian read one of the books he brought with him. A reflection by the Dutch writer Henri Nouwen on the Emmaus story 'spoke' to him and he began to explore his faith more deeply. He was 22.

'At that time the three of us were ready to be converted. I began to realise that I didn't really pray. I only went to Mass on a Sunday. Even as a student I would have missed a few Sundays. The Catholic religion was in my blood but I wasn't the most devoted Catholic in the world.'

Though he began to feel called to the priesthood, it took him seven years to discern it. 'I resisted for quite some time. I didn't actually join the Dominicans until I was 29.'

The three priests' grand aunt, Sr Henrietta Power, from Ballyvelig, Campile, New Ross, is a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Apostles (OLA).

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