Champion Community Volunteer Category:
Ireland's Voice For The Homeless
Fr. Peter McVerry - Founder - Activist & An Irish Leader Of People Who Need Guidance & Understanding
The pathway to adult life is often shaped through our childhood and teenage years and the foundation of a peaceful and harmonious home setting can have a huge bearing on the life we choose in adulthood.
Fr. Peter McVerry, at just eighteen years old, mapped out a religious life in an era when vocations to the priesthood were regarded with great respect in all Irish catholic communities. Born in Belfast, Co. Antrim, in 1944 and raised in Newry, Co. Down, where he schooled at the Christian Brothers and later at Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare, an educational establishment founded in 1814 with a strong catholic ethos.
Peter McVerry entered this secondary boarding school run by the Jesuit Community for Irish boys and went to further education at University College, Dublin where he graduated with a BSc degree in 1968.
Following his entry to the priesthood in 1962 in the Society Of Jesus, Peter further expanded his studies in Milltown Park, Dublin, and philosophy and theology were his chosen subjects at the Jesuit College.
1975 was a landmark year in the life of Peter McVerry, who at the age of 31 was ordained a priest and commissioned to Summerhill on Dublin’s northside, a working class area close to the inner city circles.
The Summerhill area had a belt of flats with little recreation facilities for children. Homelessness and deprevation created many social issues for families in everyday life. Working in the expansive new town of Ballymun, as well as the Summerhill districts through the 1970’s, alarm bells were ringing when the Belfast born priest came face to face with homelessness and poverty on the streets of Dublin.
An initiative by the cleric in 1983 would later map out his own prominent role fighting for justice for the under privileged in society and the setting up of The Arrupe Society Charity in 1983 was a forerunner to his upcoming life as a community leader.
The charity was later renamed The Peter McVerry Trust lending greater identity to the foundation and the acquisition of a 3 bedroom Ballymun flat was a step forward with much more to be done for people in need.
Founding a youth club and craft centre were cornerstones but Fr. Peter took another giant step when he came across a nine year old child sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin. Spurred into greater action a small hostel was opened in the the inner city with capacity for six boys and it would be some years later before homeless girls appeared on the streets.
The Peter McVerry Trust was now gaining widespread media attention and the foundation went from one flat to operating eleven homeless hostels, a collection of one hundred apartments, a residential drug detox centre and a further two drug stabilisation centres.
From the acorn planted by the pioneering work of Peter McVerry for the homeless and those with drug issues, the charitable work of the renowned cleric took centre stage and with an outstanding profile from Cork to Antrim, the name Peter McVerry became far more relevant to Irish people than the names of our political leaders.
The cleric did not enjoy perks and mercs and unvouched huge expenses. He needed the charitable financial goodwill of people from all over Ireland.
In a citation by Fr. Peter McVerry which is often quoted he stated “The homeless in Ireland are not a problem. They are simply people who have come upon difficult times and circumstances”.
Peter McVerry was himself fortunate to be raised in a family who had the trappings of wealth and his parents educated their son to a high standard in Newry and other educational establishments. Adult life for the young cleric could have been in commerce or industry but he chose a career prompted by his personal understanding that good financial welfare was only reserved for those born into comfortable surroundings.
Living in Summerhill, Dublin, whether by choice or intent, Fr.Peter started out his clerical life by witnessing a multitude of social and family issues neglected by successive Irish governments. School drop outs in early childhood often leads to a life in crime and containment in young offenders institutions and later in prison.
No Irish government minister has ever attempted to tackle the social problems witnessed by Fr. Peter McVerry and the sole reason for that injustice is the fact NO MINISTER has ever gone in to live amongst the poor and deprived inner city communities.
Stating that “Homelessnes and Poverty” are issues relevant all over the Republic Of Ireland, and in saluting and acknowledging Fr. Peter for the fight for an equal society in Ireland, these horrendous social injustices are embedded in the ivory towers of Irish parliamentarians.
Ireland’s politicians enjoy huge and unjust salaries and expenses and choosing the life of an Irish politician is a sure fire guarantee of financial stability and riches. People such as Fr. Peter McVerry chose a much more unselfish route in their travels through life.
When we look for suitable candidates for incorporation in our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery, on this occasion we chose our “Historic Irish Founders & also our Community Volunteers” categories.
Medals and trophies have little relevance to Irish Community Volunteers.
Recognition and appreciation of all outstanding Irish Community Volunteers is foremost and the
incorporation of Fr. Peter McVerry as a Famous Son Of Ireland in our Irish Heritage Website will be of immense interest to our Irish and international browsers and readers around the globe.
Derry JF Doody