Bravery Under Fire: EWTN To Air The Heroic Story
Of Irish Army Chaplain Father Willie Doyle
Irondale, AL (EWTN) – He was so brave during the First World War that he ran countless times into “no man’s land” to drag fellow soldiers to safety. He was so devout that he would arise early to swim and pray in an icy lake, yet he was “such a jovial character” that everyone wanted to hang out with him.
He was Father Willie Doyle, and he was an Irish Catholic Jesuit, who enlisted as a Chaplain in the British Army in 1915 because he wanted to be on the battlefield with soldiers when they most needed a priest. Learn all about his amazing life, including his “Bravery Under Fire,” when EWTN’s newest docudrama premieres at 10 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 12. (Encores air at 3:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 16; 9 a.m. ET, Saturday, August 18; and 1:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, August 19. Find EWTN at www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)
While Father Willie’s early life sets the stage, his story really comes to life after the outbreak of the First World War when the 42-year-old priest joined the British Army, 16th Irish Division, as a Catholic Chaplain.
“All denominations loved him,” said Director/Producer Campbell Miller. “They knew no matter what happened, even if they were out in no man’s land and left for dead, Father Willie would come for them. He didn’t just come once. He came multiple times a day. He would drag that soldier back if injured or, if they weren’t going to make it, he would lie down beside them and give them the last rites.”
Miller said all the soldiers wanted to be in Father Willie’s dugout because it appeared to them that no one who fought near him was killed. However, that changed in August 1917. Father Willie went out on the battlefield to rescue two men, and was caught in a mortar attack.
Says Miller: “Father Willie wanted to give the men that passed away a dignified Christian burial. It feels very odd that this could not be awarded to him because they never actually found his body. He was blown to bits.”
This might seem like a sad ending, but Miller says no one who looks at Father Willie’s life ultimately comes away sad.
“I would have wanted to hang out with Father Willie” he said. “Here was a man who gave up his life for his friends. You see that there was no fear. You see, in his limited time on earth, the respect people had for him and the impact he had on so many people while he was alive -- and even afterward from the pamphlets he wrote. “Shall I Become a Priest?”, one of his pamphlets, brought many to the priesthood. When you see what he accomplished, you can’t help but get inspired.”
Father Willie’s cause for canonization, which was put forward in 1943, has languished. Miller says: “My hope for this film is that it will cause people to again look at his cause for canonization.”
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