As the block of Jasper Street alongside Camden's Sacred Heart Church was named for him Monday, Msgr. Michael Doyle graciously whispered greetings and shook hands with well-wishers.

He did not feel able to make public remarks, or to step outside the sanctuary for the unveiling of the "Michael Doyle Lane" sign at Broadway and Jasper.

But a public appearance by the beloved pastor, who is 82 and has spent much of the last year battling cancer of the jaw, was enough to make it a joyous occasion.

Old friends embraced and posed for photos as the bell atop the handsome brownstone steeple rang cheerfully in the bright, almost balmy, morning.

"We love you, Michael Doyle," Camden Mayor Dana Redd declared in front of an audience of several hundred parishioners, political leaders, family members, friends, and clergy in Sacred Heart's lovingly restored sanctuary.

They had gathered to honor the Catholic priest who has been Camden's champion for more than four decades. They heard him called an angel and a hero, an inspiration and a visionary.

"A representation of the best of what a priest is all about," is how Camden Bishop Dennis Sullivan described him from the altar.

"No one is more deserving of this than Michael Doyle. He brings so much light to so many," Judyann Gillespie McCarthy, associate vice president of the Center for Family Services, told me.

"He's made a big difference," agreed Fillmore Street resident Tonya McCoy. "I learned things about the neighborhood from him. And I grew up here."

Doyle is widely credited with having saved Sacred Heart and its adjacent elementary school, both of which were struggling when he became pastor in 1974.

The irresistible brogue he carried to America from County Longford, Ireland, has been as persuasive in the board room (and the newsroom) as in the pulpit. His poetic way with written words likewise has helped him attract widespread philanthropic support for Sacred Heart.

And Doyle's voice --  charming, urgent, insistent --  has been a force nationally, starting with a memorable 60 Minutes broadcast in the early 1980s and more recently in Poet of Poverty, a haunting documentary by Sean Dougherty.

No wonder Doyle and his parish were able to help defeat a grandiose, state-backed plan that would have bulldozed the residential sections of Sacred Heart's substantially industrial neighborhood, once known as South Camden and now called Waterfront South.

The charismatic pastor, and his army of faithful parishioners and supporters, have served as the catalysts for substantial and ongoing changes in the neighborhood. More than 250 houses have been renovated; a gymnasium and a visual arts center have been created in what were once a movie theater and a firehouse; and urban agriculture and other programs have been established.

"His desire to have art be present in the community is why we're here," said Robert Bingaman, board president of the South Camden Theater Company, which held its first performances in the Sacred Heart basement before building a new facility at Fourth Street and Jasper. On the opposite end of the block, a center for writers, named for the late Camden haiku master Nick Virgilio, is nearing completion.

Pat Mulligan, who grew up in the same Irish farming community as Doyle and now lives in Mullica Hill, was master of ceremonies for Monday's event. The Michael Doyle Lane sign "will remind people of what he's done after, unfortunately, he's no longer here," Mulligan, 80, told me as we stood on the sidewalk after the festivities had ended.

"He's established a community here that will survive," he continued. "There are enough people here who know him and his aspirations."

And Doyle is pleased, Mulligan said, to have the street alongside the church carry his name.

Doyle's nieces, Regina Doyle and Geraldine Dobson, said much the same thing.

They had already planned their visit to Camden from Ireland when Monday's event was scheduled.

"He really wanted to be here," Dobson said. "It was important to him."

And to more than a few other people as well.