2001-06-09 / Columnists

Meet The Irish by Harry McGuirk

There is great national news about a Jesuit priest, Father Peter McVerry, S.J., a native of County Down. If you jog your memory back a few years, Peter, (as he likes to be known), has been brought back into the national spotlight and is now rightfully an Irish hero. He is a real tough little guy to be able to go into frightening sewer-like sleeping places for the homeless, abandoned children know their savior who helps to show them God and brings them to a new threshold at the doorstep of Father McVerry’s sanctuary: warm clothes, warmth of a clean bed, and a room. He makes sure that the medical and nutritional experts love to work for the downtrodden. It’s a special gift that some people have, which the holy bible tries to engrain into the spirit. Now here comes Father Peter McVerry. It is hard to get your name in the media in Ireland, singing your praises of good work. He has shown us all the way to go. God bless him.

We remember it well in Dublin. A person stopped by my table in the glamorous Burlington Hotel. The first bite was about to enter my mouth when the voice said, "Please you must come with me. There is a priest here in Dublin and he is in very urgent circumstances. I was told to go and get you and bring you to Father McVerry. My car is outside."

Obediently I followed. I thought about it as I got into the car. Who is this person? How did he know where to find me and where are we going? Our trip stopped across town at Ballymun Flats. The lights were dim. It was cold and miserable and the many-storied buildings had elevators but they weren’t working. Each block of flats was endorsed with an Irish patriot’s name.

I advised my guide not to park his shiny new car in the area, but everything turned out okay. I was led to Father Peter’s flats. The priest looked so worried trying to puzzle out his many problems but he looked like a person who wouldn’t give up too easily. My guide withdrew. I sat down to listen to what the priest had to say. I had no idea what this priest with the grey hair had to say. His mission was to save the children of Dublin. The problem was that the economy had fallen apart and the meager amounts that had previously been doled to mercy workers had now been closed down.

Well my friends you all remember the great movies like "Boystown," and as kids ourselves in Ireland we could identify with the poor kids in America. After a silence of trying to think through the prospects of his poor kids going out into the cold even this very night because there were no funds to carry on, I stood up and said, "Father, this is a very hard nut to crack. There was a creak at the door. A very beguiling smile appeared. Talk about angels with dirty faces. Apparently this kid was sent to see how things were going for Father McVerry.

So things were going good with Margie and I, and we were able to maintain the operation for a while. We asked Father McVerry to come to the Burlington the next morning to see what we could work out. He did and we worked out a plan.

Well, the Angel Gabriel must have blown his trumpet. We believe through Father McVerry’s work no child in Dublin should fear abandonment.

Pat Hanrahan, Aer Lingus, Bridie McManus, the Moriarty family, the Keller family, the McGrath’s, Rockaway Hibernians, New York State Hibernians, McManus family, Jack Irwin, New York Democratic leaders, Bob Spata, Saint Camillus, the Grimes family, Irish Echo, The Advocate, Irish World, The National Hibernian, The Wave newspaper and all its staff, Mrs. Woods and everyone who was gracious to Father McVerry and his efforts. We mustn’t forget Bill Burke at the Bank of Ireland.

That’s all I can remember at the moment that Gabriel stopped by the Burlington Hotel and took me to Ballymun Flats in his shiny new car.

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