Prominent Franciscan Educator Alcuin Coyle Dies

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NEW YORK — Alcuin F. Coyle, OFM, 79, a professed Franciscan for 59 years and a priest for 54, died Dec. 4 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.  He was prominent in theological education for four decades.

Funeral services were held last week at the Province’s Midtown Manhattan church, St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street.

A wake vigil service was held Dec. 7 in the lower church of St. Francis at which F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, preached the eulogy. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Dec. 8 in the upper church, presided by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. Former Provincial Minister Anthony Carrozzo, OFM, delivered the homily. Interment followed in the Franciscan plot of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Totowa, N.J.

Early Life
Alcuin was born Jan. 3, 1929, in Boston to the late Stephen and Theresa Coyle, where he was baptized William on Jan. 27, 1929. He attended Franklin Pierce Elementary School in West Newton, Mass.,  and then  Mission High School in Boston, from which he was graduated in 1946. He attended St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., from 1946 to 1948.

He was received into the Order of Friars Minor in Holy Name Province on Aug. 12, 1948, at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., with the religious name of Alcuin. He professed simple vows there on Aug. 13, 1949, before Thomas Plassmann, OFM.  He completed his philosophical studies in Croghan, N.Y., and Butler, N.J., receiving his B.A. degree from St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., in 1951.

Alcuin then pursued his theological studies at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., where he professed his solemn vows on Sept. 17, 1952 before Bertrand Campbell, OFM.  In 1954, he received a master’s degree in classical languages from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. On Sept. 8, 1954, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Amleto G. Cocognani, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, ordained Alcuin a priest in the Franciscan Monastery Church of Mount Saint Sepulchre, Washington, D.C.

In 1955, Alcuin began his pursuit of higher studies at the international Franciscan university, the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum, in Rome, Italy, receiving the Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1956. He was then assigned to the faculty of Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, N.Y., for three years. In 1959, he returned to the Antonianum in Rome, receiving his doctorate in canon law, summa cum laude, in 1962. At that time, he was appointed to serve on the General Secretariat organizing the First and Second Sessions of the Second Vatican Council, during the pontificates of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. In 1964, he was awarded the degree of Lector Generalis of the Order of Friars Minor.

From 1963 to 1970, he was professor of canon law at Christ the King Seminary, the School of Theology of St. Bonaventure University, becoming vice rector in 1964 and academic dean in 1968. From 1965 to 1975, he also chaired the Department of Sacred Science at the University, while serving on the Presidential Advisory Board (1963 to 1970) and the Graduate Council (1965 to 1975). From 1970 until 1975, he was professor of canon law, academic dean, member of the Executive Council and chaired the Admissions and Scholarship Committee and Academic Affairs Committee at the Washington Theological Union in Silver Spring, Md. During that time, he also served as the Province’s director of Professional Training for Formation.

Alcuin served from 1975 to 1981 as president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Chicago Cluster of Theological Schools and the executive committee of the Midwest Association of Theological Schools. He also served on other boards and commissions in Catholic theological education during these years.

12-17-08-coyle-lgFollowing a sabbatical from 1981 to 1982, Alcuin was briefly assigned to the staff of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. In 1983, he returned to the General Curia of the Franciscan Order in Rome as president of the International Commission overseeing the renewal of the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum. In 1985, he was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City, where he developed the largest adult education program within the Archdiocese of New York. He co-authored The Church Under Tension with Fr. Dismas Bonner, OFM, as well as wrote articles in professional theological journals.

On Jan. 15, 2006, he received the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from St. Bonaventure University, in recognition of his contributions to the Franciscan intellectual life.

Alcuin was predeceased by his brother, John, and sister, Anita Carlson. He is survived by a large number of nieces, nephews and cousins. Condolences may be sent to niece Marsha Sharaf, 38 Woodmere Lane, Tenafly, N.J., 07096.

Editor’s Note: This summer, Fr. Alcuin fondly described his visit to Magliano, Italy, 50 years ago while he was a student in Italy. He travelled there with other friars to commemorate the 100th  annniversary of St. Bonaventure University in the town in which the founding friar was born.