Category Archives: priesthood

An American story about an Irish priest, a brave girl, and the KKK

Father James Coyle                                                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Each and every one of us is an individual work of art, crafted by God for Himself. Why would He do that? He does it because He is Love and wants to share Himself with us. We all are truly special in His eyes. He loves us all, individually and without reservation.

 

He will forgive each and every one of us for anything we might do to offend Him. All we have to do is admit it and ask Him for his forgiveness. However, that great interloper called “Pride”, oftentimes places for many, immovable roadblocks to humility, everyone’s needed ally on their path to Love.

 

What follows is an “American” story about a Catholic priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is about love and hatred in America. This is not about the present day. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1921.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle had been born and raised in Ireland and, at the age of 23, was ordained a priest in Rome. The year was  1896.  That same year he was dispatched to the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama to begin his ministry. Father Coyle served eight years in Mobile. While there he also became a charter member of Mobile Council 666 of the Knights of Columbus.

 

Birmingham was rapidly growing and was turning into one of the primary steel-making centers in America. Thousands were flooding into the area and Bishop Patrick Allen assigned Father Coyle to be pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. This was in 1904.

 

In 1915, inspired by the silent film, “Birth of a Nation” , the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan rose up (the link can explain the first and third generations). These folks were not only anti-black they also hated Roman Catholics, Jews, organized labor and foreigners. They started the use of the “burning cross” as their symbol. By the mid-1920s, there were over 4 million klansmen nationwide.

 

Father Coyle was a passionate priest who loved his faith deeply and this love was infectious. He taught and inspired his parishioners about the beauty and importance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist and he held a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother.

 

The parish grew as Catholics gravitated to the Irish shepherd in their midst. He became the chaplain for the Birmingham Council 635 of the Knights of Columbus and his presence there brought in more members from the growing Catholic community.

 

As the Catholic population in Alabama grew, virtual hysteria on the part of the Ku Klux Klan began to permeate daily life. The Klan was spreading rumors and innuendo about Catholics kidnapping protestant women and children and keeping them imprisoned in convents, monasteries and Catholic hospitals. The Klan even spread the narrative that the Knights of Columbus was the military arm of the Pope and that they were stockpiling weapons for the upcoming insurrection.

 

One of the leading Catholic-haters of the day was a klansman by the name of  Edwin Stephenson. Stephenson lived about a block or two away from St. Paul’s Church. His daughter, Ruth, at about the age of 12, had become fascinated by the comings and goings of the Catholics at St. Paul’s every day. One day she walked down to the church and  Father Coyle was outside. They began to talk. Her father saw talking to the priest and, screaming at his child, demanded she go home immediately. Then he had a few choice words to say to Father Coyle. He then went home and beat his daughter.

 

Young Ruth was undeterred and over the next several years even managed to secretly take instruction from the nuns at the Convent of Mercy. She was baptized a Catholic on April 10,1921. She was 18 years old. When her parents found out their wedding gift to her was the worst beating she had ever received.

 

On August 11, 1921, Ruth Stephenson, of legal age, was seeking full emancipation from her parents. She did this by marrying Pedro Gussman, a former handyman who had worked at the Stephenson house several years earlier. The priest that performed the wedding was a reluctant Father James Coyle.

Later that afternoon, Mr. Stephenson loaded up his rifle and began walking to St. Paul’s Church. He had just found out that it was Father Coyle who had performed the wedding. His heart was not filled with love. Rather, with hatred spilling from his eyes, he walked up onto the porch of St. Paul’s where Father Coyle was sitting down reading and shot the priest three times. The final bullet went right through Father Coyle’s head. He died in less than an hour.

 

Stephenson turned himself in and was charged with Father Coyle’s murder. The KKK paid for the defense, the judge was a Klansman and the lawyer who defended Stephenson was Hugo Black, the future U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Although not a Klan member at the time of trial, Black did become a member afterward. The verdict took only a few hours to come in. It was “Not Guilty”.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle was a Catholic priest who loved his God, his Faith, and his Church. He was hated and murdered because of it. May he forever rest in peace.

 

copyright©Larry Peterson 2017

Just Trying to Promote My Novel, The Priest and The Peaches. Now in Print and eBook Format (For sale, too)

THE PRIEST AND THE PEACHES    
a Novel by Larry Peterson  

 A Father’s Legacy to His Children Was NOT What It Seemed                                         
 Yimey knew the secret to life. He made sure his family and friends did too. Even when his beloved wife, Elizabeth, died, he kept the faith. But the booze dulled the pain and he used too much. Then he died and left his five children to fend for themselves. They did not understand why people were calling their dad a “great man”. How could that be? Alcohol had killed him and he had left them alone. Who was this man they called “Pops” but everyone else called “Yimey”?
Awarded the CATHOLIC WRITER’S GUILD Seal of Approval 

 This book celebrates family and honors the Catholic priesthood. It deals with alcoholism, abandonment, pride, forgiveness and death. Yet, you will smile in between. It also honors, in a no-nonsense,”blue collar” way, the Golden Rule. This is a unique book and an easy read. When you finish this book you will be smiling and saying,
“L-Y-N”  “L-Y-N”
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Links:
Larry Peterson 
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 Rainy Day Reviews: I highly recommend this book. You won’t be sorry, Larry is a gifted writer who creates a smart, witty, loving and believable characters and story line. I am so happy I got the opportunity to read this book.”

A Pocket Full of Books:  “I was hooked on this one from the beginning . The writing is very unique and really stands out. The voices are just very distinctive and they’re all so easy to relate to.”
Reviews by Molly:   “This is a book that grips you from beginning to end. It’s filled with real-life events  and children that you just want to wrap your arms around, pray for them, and hug them ’til they smile forever. “
Lissette E. Manning:  “We’re able to watch a family grow within a period of seven days while faced with an adversity that, at times, seems to want to topple the family altogether. The fact that they’re able to bounce back and find strength and meaning within the very world they live in goes to show us that anything is possible only if you believe
My Two Blessings: “The story is well written with 3 dimensional characters and the Peach kids will steal your heart as you experience all the ups and downs with them. Highly recommend it.”
The Paperback Pursuer:  “When I started reading I knew that I would not be able to put it down ; most of the characters are so lively and well-written that they could be alive in the next room.”
See all 48 reviews at   The Priest and The Peaches
“A father’s ultimate legacy to his children is not the amount of material things h
e leaves them. It is found in the lessons of love and forgiveness he instilled in their hearts.”     

By Author
   petersonlarry6@gmail.com
 copyright©Larry Peterson 2015 All Rights Reserved 

A Love Story that Embraced God's Love

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

This is about a love story and, I have no doubt whatsoever, God has been involved.   Why I was allowed to be a small part of this story is beyond me.  But I was and I thank HIM for it.  Anyway,  please allow me to share my experience(s) of the past several months.  I was witness to the love shared between Ed and Cathy, husband and wife, both dying from cancer, together, holding hands, smiling at each other and at peace as the days passed by.
Ed and Cathy Caramiglio  had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year I think.  Ed was a retired commercial painter and also a master wood carver who had his magnificent creations all around his house.  Ed and Cathy were simply enjoying life together.  I guess the two of them might be considered an unusual couple.  They had  met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40 and neither had ever been married.  Now, after celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly.  Cathy had been diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. She told me about that when ‘maybe’ she had six months to live. ( It was the exact same thing my first wife had died from 12 years earlier.)  So there they were,  three houses down, spending their last months together and making the best of what still was.
They had no children and it was just the two of them.  How did I fit in?  Well, besides being a neighbor, we were all Catholic and they knew  that I was an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  They asked me if I might bring Holy Communion to them if they could not make it to Mass.  I told her I would be honored and to “just let me know when.”
A few more months went by and Ed moved  slower and slower.  Then he began using a walker to get around. He would come over and we would just joke around about silly stuff, like  how many cream donuts he had eaten that morning or how much money he lost one night at Yonker’s Raceway in New York. The guy was only about five feet four but he loved to talk and laugh and had a sparkle in his eye that caught your attention instantly. I would ask if they could make it to Mass and he  would always smile and say, “Thanks,  Larry,  Cathy will let you know if we can’t.”  Unable to push that walker for more than ten feet it quickly became necessary for me  stop by and see how they were doing. Hospice was now there on a daily basis but they were still managing to function okay.
My daily routine usually starts at around 5:00 a.m.  with a one-hour walk.  A few weeks ago, I inexplicably decided that I needed  to take another walk. It was around 4 p.m.  I actually tried to talk myself out of taking this walk but finally “talked” myself into it.  (I guess I do talk to myself a lot.)  Out the door I went and headed down the street.  Ed has an F-150 brown Ford pick-up with a cap covering the truck bed.  As I walked past the truck I was dumbfounded to see Cathy standing there on the front lawn supported by her walker.  I stopped short and said, “Oh, Cathy, hi. Wow, I did not expect to see you standing here.”
“I was waiting for you. I need to talk to you.”
I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day and you say you were waiting for me.”
“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”
I had a chill run down my back. I really did.  I leaned against the truck as she leaned heavily on her walker. She could hardly stand up. “You know Ed is dying, right?”
“Yes Cathy, I know. And how about you? How are you doing?”
She smiled and looked me right in the eye  saying, “I have a few weeks left.”
I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “Do you want a priest?”
“Oh yes, please, can you do that for us?  That is why I was out here waiting for you. We need a priest right away.”
It was not necessary that a priest come at that very moment so I told her I would bring a priest over ASAP. She smiled and thanked me and I walked her back to the house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  She mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.
I went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  When God is present sometimes it is hard to breathe. So I took a deep breath, exhaled, and  gave Ed a hug and left.
We have a young priest at our parish, Father Scott.  He just turned 32.  I saw him Monday morning of Holy Week and told him about Ed and Cathy. He had to preside at a funeral at 10 a.m. and then go to the cemetery.  He said he would be free in the early afternoon and would then come over.  I headed to the church office and registered them as parishioners, something they had never done.  I went home and told my neighbors Father would be over later in the day and that they had been registered as parishioners at Sacred Heart Church. Ed started to cry.  Cathy hugged him and joined him crying.   Next thing  I knew my forefinger  was swiping itself  under the bottom of my right eye.  I told them I would be back later with Father Scott and left.
Father Scott spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though  the two of them were  separated by more than 50 years  it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.  Father anointed* both of them and told them he would come back the first chance he could.  It was the beginning of Holy Week and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye
Easter Sunday I was privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”  He turned and looked at his wife who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet happy eyes.
Ed died last week.  Cathy is now a patient in Hospice House with little time left.  I will never forget Ed and Cathy because the love between them shined so brightly and was a beautiful, inspiring, God-given thing.  As for me, I just want to thank God for allowing  me to be their friend and a part of their final journey,  albeit for the briefest of moments.  I have been blessed.
                                                           ©Larry Peterson All Rights Reserved

Faith Can Move Mountains, if You Believe: An Amazing Book

Review Redux:  The Priest & The Peaches  from 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Book!
This review is from: The Priest and the Peaches (Kindle Edition)

Often times, faith is something almost all of us have a hard time in having. Believing in something you can’t see is testing, most especially for those of us who have strayed from the Lord’s path. Believing in his goodness, in the fact that he’ll lead us along the righteous path, well, it can honestly be trying. The reason for this is because for some, the trials and tribulations they face along the way hard from them to place their trust in a being they’re really not sure exists.

For the Peaches, both young and old, their lives haven’t been that easy. The children lost their mother and grandmother at a very young age and have dealt with the consequences of their deaths ever since then. When their father falls ill, the children realize it’s another blow of disappointment they’ve been dealt with – a disappointment none of them wish to deal with just yet. Despite this, they’re determined to band together in hopes of helping their father through his ordeal.

The task of keeping the family afloat falls upon Joanie and Teddy’s hands, the oldest of the Peach children. Beeker, Dancer, and Joey don’t quite understand what’s going on, but for their father’s sake, they’re willing to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. Unbeknownst to the Peach children, their problems are just beginning.

When their father takes a turn for the worse and dies unexpectedly, Joanie, Teddy, and the children must find the strength within themselves to face the adversity that has now been lain at their feet. Their faith has been shattered and each one of them begin to wonder as to whether they’ll be able to bounce back from the brink of a darkness that seems intent on engulfing each and every one of them. Determined to pick up the pieces of a life they’d once known, Joanie and Teddy do their best to keep their family together.

The children’s unexpected saving grace arrives in the form of Father Sullivan, a man who believes completely in the blessings and virtues extoled by God himself. His faith is firmly cemented in the fact that God will provide for his flock no matter what happens along the way. Father Sullivan has tried to make this fact known to all those he meets wherever his feet have taken him. While there are a good many that shun the message he tries to deliver, he knows that there are a good many who will take the Lord’s words into their hearts and do the best they can with what they’ve been given – a certainty that becomes apparent when the safety and well-being of the Peach children inadvertently lands in his hands.

This was such a beautiful story. I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it to anyone for reading. It’s meaning, and the lessons found throughout the story, will touch a soul to its very core. While this is a Catholic fiction story, I think it’s one that will leave the person reading with a better understanding of God, of faith, of death, and even of life, be it whether they’re a religious person or not.

We’re able to feel the Peach family’s pain, their laughter, their fears, and their triumphs as they seek to make the most of a situation that is way out of their control. We’re able to watch a family grow within a period of seven days while faced with an adversity that, at times, seems to want to topple the family altogether. The fact that they’re able to bounce back and find strength and meaning within the very world they live in goes to show us that anything is possible only if you believe.

It’s like a Christian song that was taught to me when I was little, if your faith is like that of a small mustard seed, you can move mountains. The book made me realize that it’s very much true. Anything is possible, but only if you believe. More so, if you believe that God will be there with you no matter what comes your way.

Review (Redux) The Priest and The Peaches

Review Redux:       *****   The Priest and The Peaches   *****

Heart wrenching study of faith
This review is from: The Priest and the Peaches (Kindle Edition)

Book Title: The Priest And The Peaches
Author: Larry Peterson
Published By: Tribute Books
Recommended Age: 15+
Reviewed By: Lee-Ann Graff-Vinson
Blog Reviewed For: Great Minds Think Aloud
Rating: 4

Yimey knew the secret to life. He made sure his family and friends did, too. Even when the love of his life died, he kept the faith. But then, Yimey died and his five children were left to fend for themselves – orphans in a grown up world.
Teddy and his sister, Joanie were now the adults of the house, taking care of the everyday happenings of a family. Their three younger siblings were more than handful. With work to attend, and high school exams to complete, Teddy and Joanie tried hard to fill the enormous shoes their parents left behind.

There were those, however, who did not agree with five children living in an apartment without any adult supervision. Orphans could not raise orphans. Just days after they buried their father, the “adults” went back to work, leaving the younger ones at home. Catastrophic events led the three young children to be taken into custody by the police, and a call made to Child Protection Services. They had lost their mother and father, and now they were about to lose each other. The only way out was through a dead man’s secret to life.

Author, Larry Peterson, uses loving humour to guide his readers through a novel of heartache. He writes with a message to us all, one that shows the true worth of love for thy neighbour. The Priest And The Peaches will leave you with feeling of warmth after days spent in the cold, bleakness of reality. This is a story worth reading and recommending to family, friends and neighbours. The secret to life is worth sharing, right Yimey?

"I Could Not Imagine Being 18 and—" see for yourself

  “I recommend this to my friends and anyone else that loves historical fiction”, Sandra Stiles

Review Redux:

5.0 out of 5 stars Priest and Peaches, from February 3, 2012
By 
Sandra K. Stiles (Sarasota, Florida) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Priest and the Peaches (Kindle Edition)

I could not imagine being an eighteen year old with my life ahead of me and suddenly my life is changed drastically. Teddy must find a way to take care of his siblings after their father dies. He does the best he can. The neighbor downstairs is causing problems for Teddy. He needs help so he turns to Father Tim Sullivan. Help comes in many forms including guidance in matters of everyday life. There are moral lessons to be learned seasoned with a touch of Christianity. There were pats where I just cracked up, like the boys jumping on the bed and pretending to be super-heroes. I think the reason I loved this so much was because I could relate to it so much. I remember jumping on our bed with the wire springs and having it collapse on us. I also remember my mom trudging up the steps to reprimand us. I remember tying scarves around my neck and pretending to be mighty mouse as I jumped off our back steps. When my mother was injured in a car accident and spent a month in the hospital in traction, my father put me in charge of my younger sisters aged 11 and 7. I was only 13 years old. I had to cook breakfast and get us ready for school, take care of my normal chores on our farm, help with homework, then fix dinner and take care of the dishes. It was tough. I could relate also because my experiences took place around the same time period.

I felt Teddy’s burdens as he tried to hold it all together. I felt his stress and heartache. This was one of those books that had you laughing one minute and then had your heart being squished. This is a young adult book, but I am telling you that adults will enjoy this book just as much. I definitely recommend it to my friends and anyone else that loves historical fiction.

The Priest and The Peaches–"a touching tale of family, survival, faith and hope"

Review Redux: “The Priest and The Peaches”

 Delightful tale filled with faith, love and humor, originally posted March 21, 2012
By 
This review is from: The Priest and the Peaches (Kindle Edition)

The Priest and the Peaches by Larry Peterson captures the life of the newly orphaned Peach kids as they struggle in the aftermath of their father’s death and plan his funeral. This touching tale of faith and hope offers a glimpse into the lives of this working class Catholic family set in 1960’s Bronx, NY. Steeped in faith and laced with humor Peterson’s tale delivers a powerful message “to love thy neighbor.”

This was an emotional and heartbreaking tale. This dysfunctional family has seen a lot of heart-ache. They lost their mother to leukemia; their grandma stepped in to help and recently passed away. Mr. Peach suffers from grief at the lost of his wife and turns to the bottle. The church and Father Sullivan step into help, but sadly the liquor takes its toll, leaving eighteen year old Teddy and seventeen year old Joanie to care for their three younger siblings. Teddy really steps up and tries to take care of them. Each of the kids is suffering and shows it differently. The youngest, Joey, thinks he is having conversations with his Dad. Add a nosy neighbor named Beatrice, an Aunt named Vera and a couple of drunks, you get quite the tale.

While I found parts of the tale to be rough, like the dialogue, (which might be expected from Bronxites) the overall message and tale was delightful. I enjoyed the lively cast of characters and their antics. Peterson captures their thoughts and emotions giving them depth. This was a quick and easy read that I finished in just a few hours. Peterson provides a touching tale of family, survival, faith, and hope. LYN.