by Dr. Eugene Fisher Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Fisher: Please share with our readers some information on your background.
Dr. Kyle: My Irish American parents raised our family in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb just west of Chicago, famous for its blue laws banning bars and liquor stores as well as for being the Illinois town with the most churches. My boyhood parish was St. Catherine of Siena, which was known for its great priests and its grammar school. Among the many prominent St. Catherine's alums are my contemporaries fast food tycoon William Quinn, former Chair and CEO of Mc Donald's, and the retail giants, the Brennan brothers with Edward having been the CEO and Chair of Sears, Roebucks and Company and Bernard, having been the Chair and CEO of Montgomery Ward.
When one of our parish priests, Reverend Robert Burke, became a Columbian missionary to the Philippine Islands, my mother founded and directed a Mission Club for Fr. Bob's ministry as an unpaid volunteer. Over the years, she was responsible for the construction of seven schools in Negros Occidental, PI, and for raising funds for faculty salaries at these Catholic educational centers that prepared and certified nurses. Today, many of their graduates work in medical institutions in the US.
Dr. Fisher: Where did you do your studies?
Dr. Kyle: I studied classical languages, Philosophy and Theology, in the Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois high schools. and in university seminaries run by the Archdiocese of Chicago; and was ordained a parish priest in 1969. That same year, I was sent to study liturgical Spanish and Latino culture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.
Dr. Fisher: Please provide an overview of your ministry.
Dr. Kyle: I spent twenty happy years ministering primarily to the Latino and the LGBTQ communities. Most of my assignments were consumed by my need to confront a systemic racism prevalent in the hierarchy. It involved persuading the powers that be to move the Sunday Spanish masses at five assigned parishes from dingy basements into the Church property; providing the Latino Catholics seats on their respective parish councils with translators, and pushing for space in the "Latino Catholics" Sunday bulletin to print announcements in Spanish.
While assigned to a now closed parish called St. Sebastian, which was located in a Chicago neighborhood known nationally as "Boys Town," I also served as a parish-based catalyst for LGBTQ equality by working with a group known as "Dignity Chicago."
In 1990, I resigned as an active priest with the blessings of then Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and received a warm letter of commendation for my services to the people of the Chicago Archdiocese.
Dr. Fisher: What happened after your resignation?
Dr. Kyle: In 1992, I married Diana Eiranova Kyle, a former Caritas volunteer in the slums (Villas Miserias) of Buenos Aires where Pope Francis used to volunteer. My wife Diana found Cardinal Bernardin to be a staunch advocate and friend throughout her calling to be involved in causing "good trouble" as she organized inter-faith communities to successfully free and exonerate innocent Latinos on death row. (You can watch a 17 minute documentary she wrote and produced with the financial help of Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, and Dolores Huerta: https://youtu.be/mLfdI3Mc5oo in Spanish and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fYXZgwLP1E in English.)
As a result of her activism, Diana would later be credited by American justice icon Dolores Huerta as being "a precious non-violent warrior for justice largely responsible for ending the death penalty in Illinois." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aMy2M8qarg)
Dr. Fisher; Any further information that you may want to share?
Dr. Kyle: As to my education, in addition to having degrees in advanced philosophical and theological studies, I hold a Masters degree in Sociology and Counseling from DePaul University and a Doctorate degree in the Sociology of Education from Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Studies.
Professionally, I have held faculty and administrative positions at DePaul University, Loyola University's Graduate School of Education and Triton College. I was also assistant superintendent of high schools school for Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois, curriculum director for the La Grange Illinois School District grammar and middle schools, and principal at a Pre-K through 8th Grade Chicago Public school in West Humboldt Park, an area identified by the FBI as the fifth most dangerous place in the USA for young people to live due to the proliferation of gangs and drugs.
This year, I have completed a manuscript on the spiritual treasures United Farm Workers founder Cesar E, Chavez and I shared over a twenty year friendship. Tentatively, the manuscript, which is being reviewed by my editor, will be titled: My Friend, Cesar E, Chavez -A Spiritual Memoir.
Here is a photo of at the funeral of murdered lettuce worker Rufino Contrras at El Hoyo in Calexico CA.
The priests in the photo below celebrated the funeral mass of murdered lettuce worker Rufino Contrras on February 10, 1979 at El Hoyo, a strip mall parking lot where farm workers assembled in the mornings to be hired for work in the fields. It is located in Calexico CA
Photo (from left to right) the late Redemptorist Father Joe Tobin, myself with red stole, the late Claretian Father Luis Olivares, the late Chicago priest Father Frank Plotka (Father Frank is the priest facing away from the group with the orange stole around his neck) , the late Monsignor George Higgins representing the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. and an unknown justice priest.
Dr. Fisher: Thank you for a great interview!