Biography of Rev. Alexander P. Doyle
San Francisco, CA Biographies





Rev. Alexander P. Doyle, C. S. P., whom Archbishop Hayes of New York named "one of America's foremost missionaries," was the first contribution of California to the priesthood. He was born in San Francisco, February 28, 1857, was ordained May 22, 1880, and died August 9, 1912, when fifty five years of age. The following tributes are taken from a memorial brochure prepared for the memorial mass held in St. Mary's Church of the Paulist Fathers in San Francisco, May 22, 1930.

Charles B. Flanagan, editor of "The Nation," San Francisco, wrote: "We have given interesting historic data of a number of men of the pioneer era who were leaders in the building of our great city. They laid the foundation for our prosperity. Their names are familiar in our streets and landmarks. These men in the main labored for material progress. In the present issue we speak of a pioneer family whose noble service was in the cause of religion as well as for our progress as a city of wealth. The Doyle family was inspired by their surroundings. They had a vision of a great future. It seemed a chosen place hallowed by memories of the Mission Fathers, who also must have had a vision of the future in selecting it. Our climate, the beauty of landscape from our terrace hills, our great bay, all united and inspired to a great love for the city of St. Francis. Hence their labors were twin in character, first for their holy faith, the faith of their fathers of the old Gaelic race, and second to promote the general prosperity of our material upbuilding.

"Richard S. Doyle came to California from New York in 1849 or early in 1850 by way of the Isthmus of Panama. California was a land of great promise to young men and he was possessed of the health for any adventure. His Gaelic birth of good family found in him a heritage of efficiency and brains as well as vigor of body. He had a good trade of carpenter and builder and he soon built up a good business and received important contracts. Among other structures he was associated in the building of St. Peters Church, the Catholic Orphan Asylum, University Mound, the church at Colma and various other similar notable structures, including several school edifices. He was elected president of the Builders' Exchange, its first president, we believe, after organization. Mr. Doyle was eminent among his friends and acquaintances for his sterling qualities of heart and mind, a conscientious and diligent man in all things and he was respected and popular through these sound qualities. He lived to a ripe old age, in good health, and died in 1902 in his seventy ninth year. In his last sickness he was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, where he passed away. The family home had been for some years at 2810 Howard street, near Twenty fourth street, close to St. Peters Church, where the children attended the parish school. This home was built by Mr. Doyle. Mrs. Doyle was a noble example of our pioneer women. She was specially helpful in any emergency and was always gracious and encouraging. She was a devoted wife and mother and a blessing in her circle of friends. Her charity was as broad as the promptings of a heart faithful to church and people in need. She was ideal in true hospitality. There were six children in the family, four boys and two girls. The boys, Reverend Father Doyle afterwards, and Stephen, Thomas F. and Peter, were diligent, faithful men in their industrial undertakings and were popular among the young people. The girls became Sisters of Mercy under Rev. Mother Superior Russell of St. Mary's Hospital, then on Rincon Hill. Mother Russell was sister to Lord Russell of Killowen, Lord Chief Justice of England. The names in religion of the Doyle sisters were Sister Mary Louise and Sister Mary Fidelis.

"In the life of man as in the life and permanence of any material edifice or project a substantial and enduring foundation is vital. In man the Divine spark is subject to the buffeting of the evil influences of the world. Hence from heritage and his home influences and other training must be drawn the strength to combat the evils he may encounter and to sustain him in his life struggle. Father Doyle enjoyed the great advantage of a fine home life, fine in practical religious devotion, fine in practical living, in industry, in charity, in hospitality, in all those qualities that bring esteem and friendship. It is easy to follow the footsteps of Father Doyle from his boyhood until his ordination. The piety and practical benevolence in his home had a continual influence with him. He had served on the Altar of St. Peters as a boy. It was a long walk to old St. Mary's College. In the early time there was no car service. The first line was the Omnibus Line to Twenty sixth and Howard streets. Where there is a causeway over Army street today for the Mission cars, Army street then was a ravine with a flowing creek and over this was a pathway of planks. Of the boys of St. Mary's of that time, few are left. We remember Charles Carpy who became president of the French bank, Joseph Fennessy and William White, the lawyer. There were many Spanish boys. St. Mary's College had as president Rev. Father Brennan at first and he was. succeeded by the Christian Brothers with the distinguished Brother Justin, for many years Brother Superior. Father Doyle was a faithful attendant at the Missions and the impression on his mind from the zeal of the Paulist Fathers on Missions had influence in his joining this noble order. His holy office as priest lasted for some thirty two years, from 1880 until 1912, and his sacred mission during that period in its value in the saving of souls is beyond any determining estimate of the ordinary man taken up with material affairs. Our Divine Lord alone can appreciate the worth and in the great reward many souls will be included where the saving grace came from Father Doyle's ministrations. The beauty of his life was reflected in his bearing, the same calm, gentle quality of manner and address. Those brought in contact with him felt instinctively the graciousness that was his. In his personality he sought to follow the example of his Divine Master. His teaching was modeled on the wisdom of that Master in mildness also, and the aim sought was that a true practical devotion might result from the lessons of his sermons. From the cradle to the grave his life was one of serenity. He came in contact with the agony and distress of many and was helpful to his utmost. His own life was placid as the sunshine of his loved state. He, however, mild and compassionate as was natural with him, had the fighting spirit of his race for accomplishment and he was the puissant priest in maintaining the fundamentals, the dogmas of his faith by word and letter.

"As editor of the Catholic World, a notable magazine issued by the Paulist Order, he gained a great congregation of Catholics and non Catholics, and again his wisdom was shown in his editorials, always logical, always convincing, always with the true appeal for faith in God and in Christian doctrine. No bitterness ever came from his pen, and while a learned theologian, profound in the polemics of religion, he avoided argument that might tend to be too controversial. His was indeed a holy life, a perfect life in man, and its completeness was in the salvation it brought to so many who came within its influence. What indeed is human glory of achievement, of great success in affairs, what the plaudits of the world compared with the life that brings the joys of all eternity to the men of each era where saintly priests labor! Such a life of devotion was that of Father Doyle, and he was blessed and happy in his ministry. Father Doyle, a young man, comparatively, when he died in his fifty fifth year, but from his ordination on the years were enriched with his zealous labors by voice and pen, as teacher and writer, and by the personal magnetism in appeals for the furtherance of various noble projects. The profound impression he made and the friendship manifested towards him are best reflected in the tributes paid his memory by the people at large, from the most distinguished in position to the citizen of ordinary calling in the professions or workaday life, all in unity of reverence and devotion. The Doyle pioneers and second generation have passed away. Of the third generation is Richard E. Doyle, son of Francis T., a young man eminent in our city and one who certainly well maintains the prestige of an honored name. Mr. Doyle married Gladys Sullivan, daughter of Hon. Frank J. Sullivan of that notable pioneer family."

The following editorial appeared in the Catholic World in September, 1912: "It is with great regret that the Catholic World records the death on August 9th at San Francisco, California, of its former editor, the Reverend Alexander P. Doyle, priest of the congregation of St. Paul the Apostle. In his death the congregation lost one of its most zealous and influential members; Catholic literature an able representative; and the entire church of this country an untiring apostle. Father Doyle's name and work were known from one end of the country to the other, to every class of citizens, Catholic and non Catholic, high and low. The recognition which his work received, and the many channels into which his influence extended, are the more noteworthy because he never received any eccleciastical dignity. As often as it was offered he humbly refused.

"Father Doyle was born in San Francisco in California, February 28, 1857. He was the first native Californian to be raised to the priesthood. In 1875 he entered the Paulist novitiate, and was ordained priest on May 22, 1880. He immediately went into the mission field, and with others of the Fathers gave missions in many parts of the country. In 1892 he left that field of work, and was appointed editor of the Catholic World and manager of the publishing house of the Paulist Fathers, known as the Columbus Press. It is to Father Doyle that we owe the cheapening price and the popularization of Catholic doctrinal and apologetic literature. As editor and manager he labored from 1892 to 1904. In the last named year he was appointed rector of the Apostolic Mission House at the Catholic University, Washington, D. C. He retained that office till his death. Many years ago he formed plans for the erection and endowment of this Apostolic Mission House. Father Doyle put his whole heart and soul and body into that work, and it may be said in all truth that the work cost him his life but not until after success had crowned his efforts, and the Mission House was made such an institution as will live after him, and carry out his ideals for the conversion of America. The story of its growth and its success is familiar to our readers. Father Doyle not only built and endowed the Mission House, he also founded and edited The Missionary, and made known the worth of missionary labor in every town of the country. He gained for the movement thousands of supporters, brought the necessity of it home to our Catholic people, and guided an army of children - Holy Innocents - who daily prayed God for its success.

"It would be impossible to chronicle the many labors to which he gave himself during these years. A true disciple of Father Hecker, one great enthusiasm possessed him, the conversion of America to the true faith. This was the secret of his unbounded enthusiasm and his untiring zeal. The conversion of America was the end toward which he bent his every effort: He never counted the cost; physical health and personal comfort might be neglected; he might feel now and again the strain of untiring work, but such things were of little moment when the one great call was so urgent, so imperative. To promote zeal and knowledge among Catholics; to lead Catholics to greater holiness of life, that their light might shine before men and be the beacon for others into the true Church of Christ; to stand valiantly for the rights of the Church at all times in all places; to take away by kindness and charity the prejudices of the non Catholic; to lead the other sheep into the true fold, was the passion we may call it such that possessed Father Doyle. If to this great passion for the cause of Christ one adds steadfastness of purpose and an almost incredible physical energy, we will realize in some measure the characteristics of Father Doyle, and the things which, under God's grace, crowned his work with success."

Rt. Rev. Monsignor George Waring wrote: "Though Father Doyle had overcharge of the Catholic Chaplains of the Army and Navy for only four years, from 1908 to 1912, he did much to organize them and was the first to open a central office where the chaplains could report and meet. At that time we had only twenty two priests in the combined services, sixteen in the Army and six in the Navy. Yet, with even this small number, it was a difficult problem to keep the vacancies filled. Before Father Doyle was assigned by the late Cardinal Gibbons to supervise this work, Catholic chaplains were appointed by a board of archbishops, whose active head was the late Archbishop Ireland. It was because St. Paul was so far from Washington and long delays necessarily intervened in filling vacancies, that Father Doyle was asked to be the local representative of the hierarchy in selecting and recommending priests for the Army and Navy. For the short time that Father Doyle had charge of this work, he won the esteem and admiration of every priest in the service. By his genial disposition and his natural facility for making lasting and loyal friends for himself and his cause, he soon had the non Catholic officials of the Army and Navy in full cooperation with him and his recommendations. His untimely death deprived the Catholic Army and Navy Chaplains of a true father and friend. I am convinced that the Diocese Castrensis in the United States today is the logical development of Father Doyle's splendid work, during the all too short period of his administration."

The memorial brochure of the late Father Alexander P. Doyle also contains tributes from Patrick Cardinal Hayes, archbishop of New York; Edward J. Hanna, Archbishop of San Francisco; Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Shahan, D. D., Rector Emeritus of the Catholic University of America; Rt. Rev. John J. Mitty, D. D., Bishop of Salt Lake City; T. W. Drumm, Bishop of Des Moines; Joseph McSorley, C. S. P., St. Peter's Church, Toronto, Canada; Thomas F. Burke, C. S. P., Rector of Old St. Mary's Church, San Francisco; Oliver A. Welsh, C. S. P.; Rev. Lewis J. O'Hern, C. S. P., Rector of the Mission House; John M. Handly, C. S. P.; John J. Burke, C. S. P.; Thomas J. Cullen, C. S. P.; Rev. Richard W. Alexander; Sister Mary Rose, Saint Mary's Hospital, San Francisco; Henry I. Stark, C. S. P.; J. Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore, Maryland; J. M. Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York; John Ireland, Archbishop of St. Paul; Theodore Roosevelt; and William H. Taft. A beautiful poem, "In Memoriam: Father Doyle," appeared in the Catholic World of September, 1913, written by Maurice Francis Egan.

"Father Doyle left New York in August, 1912, for San Francisco, a broken man. Death was coming very close. He longed to reach his beloved California. His last written word was a penciled postcard sent, and received after his death, to the then supervisor general of the Paulist Fathers, the Very Reverend John J. Hughes. It read: 'Over the Rockies, and into the Golden West. A. P. Doyle.' "

The memorial brochure from which we have quoted is dedicated by Richard E. Doyle "To My Beloved Uncle, who has gone before us with the sign of Faith. Who sleeps in Peace and now awaits us in Paradise." "The Light of His Holy Example Shone With Sanctifying Life On All People of His Sacred Mission. His Love for the Salvation of His Fellow Men Was Inspired by the Life and Teaching of His Divine Master - Americans of All Ranks and Denominations Mourned His Death as the Loss of a Noble Priest and a Zealous Citizen Whose Widespread Influence Was Exerted Through All the Years of His Ministry for the Betterment in Moral Living of the people. He Loved Humanity as Children of the God He Served So Faithfully."

"I shall not wholly die. Some part, Nor that a little part, shall
Escape the dark destroyer's dart-And his grim festival."

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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