Parish secretary, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, woman of deep faith. Born Jan. 26, 1952, in London, Ont. Died Dec. 25, 2011, in St. Marys, Ont., of cancer, aged 59.
From marriages and funerals to baptisms and first communions, the first person parishioners speak to is often the parish secretary. Margaret Doyle relished and thrived in this role at Holy Name of Mary parish in St. Marys, Ont.
Margaret was the third of four daughters of Edward and Julia Brown. The family lived on a farm near Lucan, Ont., before making their home in St. Marys.
She met Frank Doyle in 1972 while they were both working in Stratford, Ont., and they married two years later at Holy Name of Mary. Margaret was proud to raise three boys – Christopher, Eamonn and Francis – and would later regale everyone with stories of her six grandchildren: Clara, Evelyn, Callum, Niall, Caoimhe and Padraig.
When her family was still young, Margaret began taking care of the many details involved with parish life in a small town as secretary of Holy Name, a role she held for more than 20 years.
It was a tedious and thankless job, but it gave her great joy. She wouldn’t want it mentioned that, as noted by one of her former “bosses,” she went well beyond the call of duty. Night or day, she was there for her beloved priests, making meals on weekends and handling many emergencies.
She was always on call. Although she lived relatively close to work, at one time there was a special phone installed at her house so when someone called the church, she could answer. (Hard to imagine, given today’s technology.)
The priests who came to Holy Name relied on her to run the parish, and she came to love the quirks of those she served. Some priests were highly organized and Margaret would happily adapt to their ways; others would rely heavily on her to create order. Young or old, they became dear friends.
Her family’s house was like a second home to the many priests of Holy Name. They would often drop by unannounced for dinner or a card game (although Margaret always preferred to know they were coming so she could make sure the house was clean). The conversations about life, faith and the Church, along with many, many laughs, were legendary. If it taught me anything, it was that priests are people, too.
Above all, the parishioners of Holy Name remember Margaret as a compassionate, warm and welcoming person. She was known to help any and all she encountered.
Only one day into retirement last August, Margaret was diagnosed with cancer. Given her deep faith, it was only fitting that she passed away on Christmas morning. Her funeral was attended by six priests and two deacons. One priest said afterward, “There’s a special place in heaven reserved for parish secretaries.” Amen to that.
Christopher Doyle is Margaret’s son.