Reverend William Lodewick Doty
LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF A WRITING
CAREER IN MY character and attitudes of pre-school age, I can
only say that there was a library in our home, and we were all
encouraged to read as soon as we could, and this may have had
some bearing on my later desire to write books. I remember my
elation when I completed reading my first book, Little Black
Sambo, and how I proudly ran to my parents to inform them
of my accomplishment.
In school I had a perhaps more
than average interest in composition and in literature, and when
there were literary activities to be undertaken in extracurricular
work, I was usually among those who participated. When I reached
senior year in the Collegiate School in New York, I was chosen
to edit the annual. This was the first publication in book form
with which I was connected, although I had been editor of the
school paper prior to my final year in high school.
Searching my family background
for influences which might have led me to want to write, I recall
my mother saying that my father, a New York physician, had in
his youth written a play which he read to her with great enthusiasm.
And there was a tradition in my mother's family that Oliver Goldsmith
was one of the ancestors to whom they could trace their line.
This may have given the interest if not the ability in the matter
of literary creation which I found burgeoning within myself at
school and especially in college.
At Fordham, from the very first
days of Freshman year, I tried to have articles and poems accepted
by the literary magazine, The Fordham Monthly. But I made
the mistake of submitting themes or compositions which I had
written in the past or which I was then preparing in connection
with class work, and this, together with my lack of experience,
led to the rejection of my manuscripts. It was only in Junior
year when I started writing original stories and essays just
for the Monthly that I found acceptance from the critics
of that venerable college periodical. Once success came, it continued
and grew so that I at last attained what had at first seemed
to me an impossibility, namely, membership on the board of editors.
From then onward, I began to feel identified with writing and
things literary and the desire to write and to be published became
something almost habitual with me. I was encouraged in this by
my courses in English and especially by a course in creative
writing under the late Father Francis P. Donnelly, S.J., whose
many books were known to students throughout the Catholic English-speaking
world, and whose writing abilities ranged from popular songs
to spiritual classics. By the end of college, I was convinced
that, although my career lay in the field of law and although
I would attend Fordham Law School, I would never abandon my interest
I need not detail the change
in vocation to which I was inspired during my first year at law
school, except to say that I entered St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie,
the major seminary of the Archdiocese of New York, the following
year. There, although most of my energies and efforts were directed
to the courses and spiritual exercises necessary in the preparation
of priests, I still found time to be a member of the seminary
literary society and to write occasional pieces for local publications
of various types.
On January 27, 1945, I was
ordained to the priesthood by the then Archbishop Francis J.
Spellman, and received as my first assignment an appointment
to the river town of Haverstraw, New York. Here, adapting to
the demands and wonders of priestly life occupied most of my
time and concern, yet I was able to prepare two scripts for a
New York radio station in connection with what was then known
as the Faith in Action series, produced by the Confraternity
of Christian Doctrine of New York.
In June 1946, I was appointed
to St. Luke's parish in the lower Bronx, and then the following
September the call came to teach religion and English in the
archdiocesan Cardinal Hayes High School, attended by 3,500 boys.
There I completed a series of catechetical sermons for the children's
Mass which I had begun the previous summer. Having had my manuscript
typed, I sent it off as my first attempt at having a book published.
Months went by with one rejection slip after another. Five publishers,
then six told me they were unable to publish it. Nevertheless,
I sent the well-worn pages off again, and this time I received
a letter of acceptance from Joseph F. Wagner, Inc.
Thus my Catechetical Stories
for Children was published in 1948. This was a great incentive
to my desire to carry on the apostolate of the pen, an ambition
which had been encouraged in me by several of my college and
I immediately started work
on a second book, a series of short stories which illustrated
some point of Christian doctrine or social teaching and thus
might form the basis for a discussion by a study group or church
society, or a class in school or college. I believed that this
method of developing a discussion might be more interesting and
attractive than the usual cut and dried method. This book, Stories
for Discussion (Wagner, 1951), although rather well received
by critics, did not achieve a very great sale.
Meanwhile, I had conceived
the idea of writing a novel which would be a realistic picture
of priestly life in our times, presenting the inner problems
of a young priest in his early assignments, and picturing his
efforts to meet the challenge of paganism and indifference so
characteristic of our time. I felt that such a book might be
a source of inspiration toward greater co-ordinated effort between
clergy and laity.
This novel, Fire in the
Rain (Bruce, 1951), achieved unexpected success, being selected
by the Catholic Literary Foundation as its choice for "the
book of the month," and being listed for six consecutive
months on America's best seller list.
A second novel, The Mark
(Bruce, 1953), followed quickly. A story about a young priest
chaplain in a Catholic high school, it tried to picture the trials,
the joys, the inspiration and the possibilities for good or evil
which presented themselves in such a situation. Because of the
more restricted theme and the circumstances of the plot, it did
not achieve as wide a circulation as my first novel.
My most recent book, I Father
Roland (Bruce, 1961), is a sort of clerical picaresque novel
which highlights some events of special interest in the life
of a fictional priest, beginning with his time of preparation
in the seminary and ending with his efforts as a large city pastor
to bring Christ more fully into the community.
In 1958, Benziger Brothers
published, as one of their Banner Series for children from nine
to thirteen, my biography of Pre Marquette and Louis Joliet,
the explorers of the Mississippi, under the title Crusaders
of the Great River. Like all the volumes in the series, it
is being given a fine reception by young readers.
In addition to the assignments
I have mentioned, I have been a curate of St. Patrick's Cathedral,
New York City, for three years, assistant director of the Society
for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of New York,
and I am at present chaplain of the College of New Rochelle,
New Rochelle, New York, where I attend to the spiritual needs
of nine hundred young women students as well as teach theology
to the senior class. Certainly I am in an atmosphere which encourages
writing, and I intend to continue to do so as long as I feel
I have something to say which may have interest or value.
Writing has given a dimension
to my life which, under God, nothing else could possibly supply,
and I am grateful for the opportunity which I have had to share
my thoughts and emotions with others.
published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig,
Sixth Series, 1960.