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For nearly 13 years, Kathy Doyle has been a vivid presence at St. Brendan Catholic Church, overseeing social ministries for the largest church in Brunswick County and its diocese.
That will soon change now that Doyle has announced her retirement.
A party in her honor is planned for 2-4 p.m. Saturday, March 2, in Brendan Hall at the church tucked between the Harley dealership and Brunswick Funeral Service on U.S. 17.
“Effective Easter Sunday [March 31] I resurrect retired,” Doyle said, seated Monday at her desk inside the church office building where she has worked since Memorial Day 2000.
“It was May 27, so my first working day was a paid holiday,” Doyle said.
Doyle was already a St. Brendan member when former church pastor the Rev. Michael Connelly asked her to serve as social ministries coordinator.
The Philadelphia, Pa., native and her husband, Gus, had been living in Little River, S.C., since 1996.
“[Gus] did retire here,” she said. “I didn’t.”
She started attending Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., to finish her bachelor’s degree. In 1997, she was hired to work with the university’s Lifelong Learning Society, a job she continued until she left to come to St. Brendan.
“The reason I chose to leave now rather than wait is my son and his wife are expecting our sixth grandchild,” Doyle said.
She wants to be available to assist them with what she already knows will be her fourth granddaughter.
Another source of retirement inspiration is a photograph displayed in Doyle’s office, when she and other cousins converged last Oct. 12 at Ellis Island to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their grandparents’ arrival in America from the Ukraine by way of Austria.
“I’m the second-oldest cousin,” she said. “It’s time to retire. Now I’m ready.”
Serving as social ministries coordinator in the region’s largest church has meant “I meet the needs of parishioners and people in the community,” Doyle said.
When Father Michael hired her, “he wanted to make St. Brendan’s a Catholic presence in the community, so that’s what I tried to do as a result,” she said.
Doyle has worked closely with Brunswick Senior Resources and Brunswick Family Assistance as well as, more recently, Brunswick Housing Opportunities.
“We started realizing Hispanics were here,” Doyle said.
The church began to intensify its Hispanic ministry under Father Michael, continuing under the leadership of the Rev. Patrick O’Connor and with subsequent leaders, the Rev. Robert Ippolito and current pastor the Rev. Ryszard Kolodziej.
When Doyle started working at St. Brendan, the church consisted of about 700 families comprising 1,000 people, about two-thirds of them older than 60.
The church has mushroomed into a membership of between 3,700-3,800, making it the largest in Brunswick County as well as in its diocese stretching to Raleigh, Doyle said.
Of that number, between 1,100-1,200 church members are Hispanic, including 450 children, she said.
At one time, the church was averaging 20 to 30 new families a month. Now, it’s closer to 50 per year.
“One of the unique things about this parish is the dynamic is constantly changing,” Doyle said. “When [people] choose to come here, that means to me they really want to be a part of the parish family.”
She has no problem asking for their help. If anyone wants to know how, Doyle has a long list of volunteer opportunities.
Doyle, said Lora Moree, BFA’s program director, will be greatly missed and has been a pleasure to work with.
“She’s a good advocate for the community,” Moree said. “She’s been a driving force,” including working with the local homeless coalition.
Colleagues in the church office said likewise. How will they manage without her?
“Somebody else will do it,” Doyle said.
Her duties will be divided among three people—Sister Rosanne Caiazzo, who oversees immigration at the church; administrative assistant Rusty Joy; and Mary Hart, director of faith formation at St. Brendan.
The biggest community need Doyle has seen in recent years is “obviously the lack of jobs,” she said.
The church’s food pantry numbers have been going up, as have requests for monetary assistance for rent and utilities.
“So many families are right on the cusp of becoming homeless because they’ve lost jobs, or families are doubling up,” she said. “There’s a lot of need to do something for these families.”
Just recently, Doyle, working with the South Brunswick Interchurch Council, said they were able to secure $250-$300 to help a working couple of six children get their car fixed. Because of that aid, the couple is able to continue working, stay afloat and keep their family together, Doyle said. “It’s worth it.”
Something needs to be done to develop a different kind of industry base locally, Doyle said.
One bright spot she’s been noticing lately from her office window facing U.S. 17 is more log trucks passing by—a sign, she hopes, of more construction activity.
And Doyle isn’t retiring entirely.
As an associate of the congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany headquartered in New York, Doyle said she’s been asked to serve as co-director of a program extending from “Boston to Brazil.”
“I’ve got my passport ready,” she said.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.