Alcuin Coyle Honored at 31st Street Dinner

Timothy Shreenan Features

NEW YORK – With over 50 guests in attendance, Alcuin Coyle was honored at a dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The occasion marked his retirement after 20 years as director of adult education at St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street. In addition to the friar community, guests included parishioners, faculty, friends and members of Alcuin’s family.

Started in 1985 at the behest of then Pastor Flavian Walsh, the St. Francis Adult Education program has grown to become one of the finest in the nation. Two important texts – the encyclical “On Evangelization in the Modern World” by Pope Paul VI, and “To Teach as Jesus Did” by the bishops of the United States – formed the basis of Alcuin’s initial course offerings. Every course brochure carried the message of the bishops: “Adult religious education is at the very center of the mission of the Church.”

From nine courses offered in the Fall of 1985, the number jumped to 17 just a few years later. The topics covered a broad range from prayer and spirituality to opera, art and photography.

“We wanted to have as broad appeal as possible in order to nurture the whole person,” Alcuin added. “People came from all over the New York metropolitan area, because there were no other programs in the local parishes. We seemed to be offering something unique,” he said.

Initially, the classes were held in rooms adjacent to the old Third Order Hall. In the early 1990s, the former St. Francis School was completely renovated to provide additional classroom space.

Many of the friars stationed at St. Francis Church have served as teachers over the years. Other local priests and religious have also been on the faculty, as well as several lay men and women. For example, Placid Stroik, OFM, from the Assumption Province, who serves as Director of Pastoral Ministry at Covenant House, has regularly given courses in spirituality. Fr. Peter Vaccari and Fr. Roland Faley, TOR, are both on the faculty of Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Long Island and regularly give courses on Church History and Scripture, respectively.

Francis Medal Presented

During the cocktail hour preceding dinner, a brief ceremony took place in the community room before the assembled guests. Guardian of the community Jerome Massimino explained the significance of the Francis Medal, which was awarded to Sharon Liscio who served as Alcuin’s administrative assistant for many years, and whose behind-the-scenes work kept the Adult Ed program running smoothly. After Kevin Tortorelli read the citation,John Felice presented the medal. The Friary Vicars, Alan Thomas and Vincent Laviano, also took part in the presentation ceremony.

Alcuin also took the opportunity to recognize Robert Gavin for his many years of service to the Adult Ed program. Robert’s course on the late M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled was a perennial favorite. Alcuin presented Robert a certificate naming him “Professor Emeritus.” Robert quickly responded, “I quit!”

In stepping down from the directorship of the program, Alcuin will continue to devote his time to the pastoral and sacramental ministry at 31st Street. Kevin Tortorelli has assumed leadership of the program with a full slate of courses for the Winter-Spring semester.