Fr Owen Doyle RIP (30 May 1924 - 7 March 2022)

FrOwenDoyle Hero P350Just after his 95th birthday, Fr Owen reflected on his life:


“I was born in 1924 and lived on a farm near Quambatook in the Mallee. I was one of eight children and went to Quambatook South School with only about sixteen students of whom I was related to all except about three or four.


I did a correspondence course for my first year of secondary schooling and then went into Second Year at Assumption College Kilmore (ACK) in 1938, finishing Leaving Certificate in 1940. I was captain of the football second eighteen in 1940.


A few years ago, I went back to (ACK) and was shown around. I could not get over how much the school has changed. Think of a Tiger Moth and a giant Jumbo Jet. That’s the comparison between the College in the late 1930s and that of today, both in the buildings and in the curriculum and, of course, in the enrolment (about 250 boarders and about 60 day ‘snags’ in 1938).


Since 1941 my life has taken unusual turns. I started as a Student Teacher at Eastern Road, South Melbourne and then, at eighteen years of age, I joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and became a Wireless Maintenance Mechanic, serving for a few months in each of Goodenough Island, Kiriwina Island and finally at Los Negros, an island just off Manus Island. I was one of some half dozen mechanics responsible for keeping the transmitters up and running. Returning to Australia, I worked on aircraft radios at East Sale RAAF Base.”


Living and working conditions on the Papua New Guinea RAAF bases were difficult; intense humidity and torrential rain made working even more difficult. During this time, Fr Owen was an altar server at Catholic Sunday Masses held at the Base. One Mass was significant, the Feast of the Assumption on 15 August 1945. Rumours had been circulating that the war was about to end. When the Catholic men went to the recreation Hall for Mass, on a day that was not a Sunday, men at the base assumed the rumours were true and that the war must be over, not realising a holy day of obligation.


In the fifteen months Fr Owen spent on Papua New Guinea island during WWII he only saw one enemy combatant, a Japanese soldier who was imprisoned in a wire cage.


When he returned to Australia, Fr Owen returned to training to become a teacher. He studied at Melbourne Teachers’ College and then Melbourne University. He started his first teaching job in 1950, teaching mathematics at Kerang High School. He then taught at Princess Hill Central School, Coburg, Essendon, Watsonia, Macleod, Moreland, and Heidelberg High Schools.


In 1949, in his third year of university, Fr Owen married a girl from Wycheproof, Mary Margaret (Margot) Credlin, who was a friend of his sisters Kath and Carmel. They had nine children, John, Brian Peter, Gerald, Michael, Mary, Anne, Mark, and Clare. Their second son, Brian, was tragically killed by a horse when he was three years old. When the owner of the horse asked Fr Owen if there was anything he could do, Fr Owen replied, “If you believe in prayer, you can pray for his recovery.” Fr Owen reflected that the horse owner didn’t understand that he was deeply serious in his request for prayer.


In 1982, Margot died from cancer and Fr Owen retired from teaching twenty months later; he was Deputy Principal of Heidelberg High School at the time.


Fr Owen recounts his journey to the priesthood.


“One weekend, on a visit to my sister in Murchison, the priest mentioned the scarcity of priests and my reaction was that perhaps I could help fill the ranks. At that time our assistant priest at Greensborough had studied as a mature-aged student at St Paul’s Seminary in Sydney, so our Parish Priest, Fr Kierce, sent me to St Paul’s and I was ordained four years later on 8 September 1988 for Sandhurst Diocese. Because I was well into my sixties, I did not have to do a pastoral year before ordination. I was sent to Beechworth to help over Christmas and New Year and spent a couple of months there when the parish priest went on holidays. He had everything organised, even a wedding in the Beechworth Goal. My first appointment was to Numurkah (the Parish Priest was Fr Gerald Moylan, a classmate at ACK) for almost two years, then to St Kilian’s, Bendigo for almost two years, Then I was parish priest at Rushworth for just short of twenty-one years until I retired at the age of 89, and 25 years of being ordained to the very day: Our Lady’s birthday, 8 September 2013.“


Just before his retirement, in May 2013 Fr Owen was awarded the Bishop Noel Daly Award for Outstanding Service to Leadership in Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sandhurst.


He is loyal to all aspects of student and school life – he is present at all gatherings, ready to travel to school Masses at the secondary schools his young parishioners attend. He is a staunch supporter of his principals and staff. Fr Owen is a practical man and during his time as Parish Priest, St Mary’s at Rushworth has been transformed. He is constant and reliable; present at Catholic Education Sandhurst gatherings, ready to provide insightful and honest responses that ensure the outcomes of the Diocese are the best possible.

A genuine Pastor who knows his flock is how people both young and old know and love Fr Owen. He has always been involved in the life of the local town community as a respected priest. This lived witness speaks louder than words. Catholic Education Sandhurst acknowledges and expresses its gratitude to Fr Owen Doyle as a priest with a pastoral heart and a love and commitment to our schools.”

Fr Owen is survived by seven of his nine children, 24 grandchildren and 24 (soon to be 25)  great-grandchildren.

Fr Owen's Funeral Mass Webcast can be viewed from the Tobin Brothers website: Memories of Father Owen John Doyle | Funeral Directors & Services M... (tobinbrothers.com.au)