Our entire parish family mourns the death of Father Michael but we also thank God for the gift of his life and the gift of his priesthood that enriched so many. When I first met Michael Doyle, I was not a priest, I was a lawyer and Director of the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice in North Camden. I still vividly remember him walking up the stairs of our 3rd floor office with a member of his community. With the Irish Brogue he never lost he said, “Vince, a member of our parish is in a bit of a jam, can you help?” As many know, it was hard to say no to Father Michael. The example of his dedicated priesthood as he advocating for the poor, helped me in my discernment to leave the practice of the law and enter the priesthood. (I was ordained 10 years ago, in 2012). It is still hard for me to believe that twenty years after that encounter in my law office that I would be a priest and succeed him as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.
Father Doyle will be remembered by many as a peace advocate, a war protestor, a community organizer, and a home builder. But in his heart, he was always a parish priest. He was a priest of mercy, as Pope Francis calls us to be, he walked among his flock, had the “smell of his sheep entrusted to his care” and lived the joy of the Gospel.
Father Michael would not want us to look back to the past and pat ourselves on the back for past successes. We must always look forward. After I was appointed pastor, he said to me: “Vince, the Church needs to be in Camden, we need to be that beacon of hope for the poor and broken.” He is right. Sacred Heart Parish has changed. We now consist of 3 church communities, Sacred Heart, St. Bartholomew, and St. Joan of Arc. We are a diverse multi-cultural parish family that covers all of South Camden and we strive to be the “beacon of hope” that Jesus calls us to be.