He officially “retired” from academia some 16 years ago. But, as his daughter observes, if his desk at home is a current indication, he is anything but retired from the battle for life, family and faith at the age of 81.

Dr. David Dooley, professor emeritus of English at Toronto’s St. Michael’s College, associate editor of Catholic Insight magazine and a contributor to The Interim, was honoured by friends, family, co-workers and the Witness organization, a Catholic lay apostolate, on Oct. 4 at Toronto’s Spirale Banquet Centre. The occasion was the presentation to him of the fourth annual Witness to Faith award, which each year honours an individual who has especially stood as a beacon for the orthodox Catholic faith.

Dooley obtained an undergraduate degree from the old Waterloo College in 1942, before serving with the Canadian army during World War II. Following the war, he began graduate studies at the University of Toronto. After obtaining his doctorate, he went on to become head of the English department at St. Michael’s College, and ended up serving in the educational field for some 40 years.

That was just a precursor to his subsequent contributions, however. At a time in life when many might look forward to relaxing in Florida or living the easy life, Dooley went on to serve as a pillar in the Canadian pro-life, pro-family movement by utilizing his considerable linguistic and writing talents to get the Christian, pro-life and pro-family message out to as wide an audience as possible.

Witness president Jim Duffy told the crowd at the awards presentation that he has known Dooley since the early 1980s, when the pair met through a common devotion to the pro-life cause via Campaign Life Coalition. “I think he’s the chap that I’ve looked up to all these years and drawn my inspiration from,” said Duffy in presenting the Witness to Faith award. “He’s just been tremendous to me and been a great inspiration. I think he’s been an inspiration and example to lots of Catholics across Ontario and indeed, across Canada. He epitomizes everything it means to be Catholic.” He added that Dooley shows up at almost every pro-life and Catholic function in the archdiocese of Toronto.

Catholic Insight editor Father Alphonse de Valk said Dooley is “a great Canadian, a great educator, a great pro-lifer,” and has used his professional career as a professor of English literature to enter into a much larger field – that of the defence of the unborn. “He embraced a most noble cause,” said Fr. de Valk. “Secondly, he has done so with remarkable perseverance and patience. Thirdly, he has done so with self-effacement, humour, good nature and a wonderful sense of co-operation with young and old.”

“We need him,” said de Valk. “Therefore, let us ask the Lord to save him for years to come.”

Dooley’s daughter Anne Marie Langthorne said her father is “a very special man who has always given so much of himself, not only to his family and friends, but to all those who have had the pleasure of meeting him.”

In receiving the award, Dooley said it was “a great honour” to see so many of his friends present, and that he was “flattered” by the accolades. At the same time, he expressed concerns about the state of Catholic education in Canada, and noted that there has been a “deficiency” in nurturing Canadian Catholic talent. “Something must happen,” he said. “People who have the means, ability and so forth, should undertake to revitalize Catholic education in Canada in some way, shape or form … Somehow, the institutions that have gone down the drain have to be replaced.”