Alcuin F Coyle, OFM
1929 – 2008
Fr. Alcuin F. Coyle, OFM, was born on Jan. 3, 1929, in Boston During his senior year of high school, he discerned a religious vocation thanks to the friars at St. Francis Retreat House in Brookline, Mass., and so attended St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., from 1946 to1948.
He was received into the Province’s novitiate in 1948 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and professed simple vows there the following year. In 1952, Fr. Alcuin professed solemn vows at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C. He was ordained in 1954 at the Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre in Washington.
Fr. Alcuin’s excellent academic record marked him out for higher studies, and so, in 1955 he enrolled at the international Franciscan university, the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum, in Rome, receiving an S.T.L. in moral theology in 1956. He returned to the Province to teach at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, N.Y. He then returned to study at the Antonianum, receiving his doctorate in canon law in 1962. That year, Fr. Alcuin was one of four friars appointed to the General Secretariat organizing the Second Vatican Council; he served in that capacity during its first and second sessions, and in 1964, he was awarded the title of Lector Generalis of the Order of Friars Minor.
In 1963, he became professor of canon law and vice-rector at Christ the King Seminary, then the School of Theology of St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. In 1965, Fr. Alcuin assumed the additional responsibility of chair of the university’s department of sacred science; he revitalized that summer school master’s program, assembling a world-class faculty to provide religious women with an excellent theological education in the wake of Vatican II. Fr. Alcuin continued to direct the sacred science program until 1975, although in 1970, he had moved to Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., taking up the positions of professor of canon law and academic dean at the Washington Theological Union. During that time, he also served as director of professional training for the friars in formation.
In 1972, he and Fr. Dismas Bonner, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, co-authored The Church Under Tension. In 1975, Fr. Alcuin was chosen president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, serving in that capacity for six years; he enlarged the corporate membership of the school and brought several distinguished scholars to the faculty.
Following a one-year sabbatical Fr. Alcuin was briefly assigned to the staff of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston in 1982, but the following year, he again was called to Rome to serve as president of the Commission overseeing the renewal of the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum.
In 1985, he took on what was to be his final assignment as a member of the pastoral staff of St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City. For more than two decades, Fr. Alcuin thoroughly committed himself to the work and fraternal life of the community, gaining a wide reputation as a compassionate confessor. He took his academic talents to a more pastoral level, developing the largest adult education program within the Archdiocese of New York, which he directed until 2006. He also continued to serve St. Bonaventure University as a member of its Board of Trustees from 1986 to 1997. In 2006, the University granted him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his contributions to the Franciscan intellectual life.
Fr. Alcuin died Dec. 4, 2008, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, where he had been a patient for several weeks. He was 79 years old, a professed Franciscan for 59 years and a priest for 54 years.