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Theresa "Terry" P. Doyle died October 3, 2023
This is the homily delivered at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Albany, NY
October 13, 2023
Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Dublin was a boarding school, convent and farm established by the Irish branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1822. The founder of the Institute was an Englishwomen Mary Ward whose ideas of religious life were so radical that her Institute was suppressed until 1877. Our sister Theresa Doyle, whose life we honor and remember today, went to that school as a youngster. She must have absorbed some of the fiery spirit of the women who taught her there.
Given all that we know about Terry it could very well be that her passion for teaching, her desire to end injustices, and her unrelenting commitment to the gospel truth took root in the hallowed halls of Loreto Abbey. Nurtured by her parents and informed by her teachers, Terry grew into a loving and kind human being — daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, educator, and a fierce advocate for human rights.
After Terry died many comments about her were shared by volunteers at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, her friends from this St. Vincent de Paul parish, and, even, her students from Albany public schools. They all remembered her fondly.
One former student wrote: “You could tell at first sight that she was a force to be reckoned with.” Another mentioned: “Terry was a rebel, but she was usually right.” Some who volunteered with her at bible studies for incarcerated persons noted how the men were always touched by Terry’s prayers and thoughts and how eager they were to read out loud the meditations she wrote for them.
No matter what topic she tackled, Terry, firm in her convictions and often with a faint smile on her lips, revealed a Christ like social grace. Her moral fiber coupled with her Irish wit would be not be shaken by anything or anyone who tried to distract her from her mission.
Terry identified with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. His mission and message continued to transform her and fuel her desire to share her faith and hope with others — young children, teenagers, adults, and, yes, those incarcerated persons in prison. Her no-nonsense message revealed how the presence of God is found everywhere in both the joys and sorrows of life.
The first reading (Wisdom 3:1-9) this morning was an exhortation to Jewish leaders to pursue wisdom and justice. It encouraged them to take pride in their faith at a time when tensions between Jews and non-Jews incited anger, hate, murder. Filled with wisdom, Terry fearlessly embraced that message as she proudly shared her faith with others by doing good works for them. She believed that “grace and mercy are always with God’s holy ones.” She was that amazing grace.
The messenger St. Paul saw that some members of the Corinthian congregations were departing from the moral lessons of the gospels. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10) He reawakened them to the reality that none of the tyrants of an earthly age or political rulers who are hostile to humanity, understand the wisdom of God expressed in the gospel texts. Paul claimed they overlooked how that wisdom can help resolve local, regional, and global conflicts.
Terry took that teaching seriously. The Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, wrote about it this way: “We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great duty and responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless.” And, that’s what Terry did.
Fittingly the gospel (Matthew 25:31-40) we just heard sums up the dedication Terry possessed for the sake of the gospel and human beings. It is the Evangelist Matthew’s most powerful ethical statement regarding performing works of mercy for those in great need in the present world:
“When I was a stranger you welcomed me.” And Terry did so by participating, for one example, in the Albany Tula Alliance inaugurated in the Capital District in 1991. She helped a Russian family from Tula, an industrial city south of Moscow. With others, she provided mutual support and inspiration to immigrants seeking to improve their lives.
“When I was in prison you visited me.” And Terry did so by encouraging others to join her in prison programs such as Residents Encounter Christ and weekly bible study sessions. She insisted that the incarcerated persons sitting in the pews, who so appreciated her candor, should pay attention to what she had to say. She often told them without mincing words: “Listen to me. God loves you and don’t you dare forget it.”
That explains perhaps why Terry also believed the line in the hymn we will sing later while sharing communion — “For You are My God.” She was convinced that God would not leave her for dead and that her happiness would be at God’s right hand forever. Yes, the Terry Doyle we knew is gone now but in so many ways … she will not be forgotten.