Meet Declan Coyle, a Real Liberation Theologian (Sunday Homily)


My Easter homily two weeks ago evoked a wonderful response from one of my former priest-colleagues from the Society of St. Columban – the missionary community of priests I belonged to before I left in 1976. The colleague is Declan Coyle (pictured above).

Declan, it turns out, is a wonderful and witty writer. In a future blog I’ll share his moving piece on his son, Alexander who has Mowat Wilson Syndrome. It’s a truly inspiring essay on the meaning of living in the present moment.

When I asked for permission to share his Easter thoughts, here’s how Declan responded.

Of course Mike you can share it with you audience.

I soldiered (how easily the old militaristic verb crops up, “Who has a blade for a splendid cause … our horses are red to the hocks with the blood of the heathen”) with the Columbans for 27 years from seminary to moving on to marry Annette, an Australian in 1990.

I studied Liberation Theology in St Paul’s Ottawa after ordination, and then I asked the Superior General for five years in a slum in Latin America or Asia. After nine years of post-high school academic study I felt I was not fit to teach in Boston. But I knew that if I got some years in a slum where the slum dwellers who had survived and graduated from the University of Life taught me some life lessons, and I got these in my blood and my guts and my bones and my being, then I could teach Liberation Theology with passion and enthusiasm.

I got five years in the Philippines and six in Taiwan.

I got married to Annette, my wife in 1990. We have three children, Genevieve (19), Fionn (16) and little Alexander who is eight. He is a very special child. He has Mowat Wilson Syndrome. It was only discovered in 1997 and he was the first child in Ireland to be diagnosed with it. I’ll attach a reflection I wrote recently about him. He’s the epitome of the idea that he’s not a human being having the odd spiritual experience, he’s a spiritual being having a human experience.

The last 90 days I was in the Philippines I buried 65 children under two years old … all who died from hunger or hunger related diseases. In the slums we lived Jesus’ Synagogue Speech and Matthew 25 and life to the full and joy overflowing.

From where I’ve lived my so called Christian life, you’ve got your hand on the heart and the soul of the gospel and what the carpenter poet of Galilee was all about. I’m still baffled as to why John Paul II didn’t jump on a plane and go out and finish that Mass that stopped when Romero was shot. Would that not have been a symbolic gesture to lift the hearts of the poor and baffle Reagan?

Every blessing in your great work. You are real good news for the poor. You are real liberation for those oppressed by the historical accretions of the empire and real new sight for those of us who have been blind to the real meaning of the gospels for our world today. You remind me of the great prophet Micah whose words you live: To act justly, to love tenderly with kindness and to walk humbly with your God.

All the lovely things of the Holy Spirit on this Easter Week.


And now Declan Coyle’s Easter Reflection:

Years ago here at home our eldest two children Genevieve and Fionn were playing hide and seek all over the house. All I could hear all day was, “ready or not, here I come!”

That evening Genevieve asked me how did Jesus rise from the dead. I told her that on Easter Sunday morning the soldiers were outside the tomb, cooking their Easter eggs in a pot on the fire. Then suddenly from the tomb came this thunderous voice, “Ready or not here I come!” Then the rock rolled away and out came Jesus.

The two soldiers fainted with the fright.

The following week, the teacher asked the children to explain how the resurrection happened. Genevieve told her how. The teacher was not impressed.

I asked Genevieve which story she preferred. She said yours Daddy. In one fell swoop, she turned me into the fifth evangelist – a storyteller with a myth, a story, a lie that tells the truth. She understood hermeneutics.

In our recent discussions I told her that if ever she is tempted to go literal, she’ll lose the meaning. Always go symbolic. If you go literal, then you’re wondering at Christmas was Jesus born in a stable, or a cave or was it a kindergarten for the Essenes?

Literal is a dead end. But when you go symbolic you realize that the Christmas story simply means that great power comes in humble packages.

Keep up the great work Mike.

And send your material to Pope Francis.

Happy Easter. Declan

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

4 thoughts on “Meet Declan Coyle, a Real Liberation Theologian (Sunday Homily)”

  1. .”…a spiritual being having a human experience.”
    that says it all!
    Sorry Dec for beating you to the press!


  2. Fr. Declan Coyle,
    Are you the priest who celebrated mass with us at St. Columban Parish sometime 1985-87+, I was there with you in my youth days if you are that priest I know. I remember Fr.Edward McKenna, Michael Donnoher, Patrick Dugan,Shay Cullen,Richard Cannon…


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