This Christmas Day after saying Mass in Wheatfield Prison, Fr. Peter McVerry and his team will host dinner for people who are on the street. Seán Creedon met with the man who works tirelessly all year round to bring light into the lives of those who are struggling.
Christmas means different things to different people, but for many it’s about spending quality time with family and friends. In years gone by people put a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve. Nowadays in urban and indeed some rural areas there seems to be a competition as to who can put up most Christmas lights.
People who live away from their home place try to make it back to the old homestead at some stage over the Christmas period. But of course some people don’t have any home to go to. And that’s where Peter McVerry Trust comes in.
Peter McVerry Trust, founded by Fr. Peter McVerry, S.J, works to provide homes for unfortunate people, who for a multitude of reasons find themselves homeless at Christmas and throughout the year.
Peter McVerry Trust is a national housing and homeless charity, set up in 1983 and is committed to reducing homelessness and the harm caused by substance misuse and social disadvantage.
The charity provides low-threshold entry services, primarily to younger people and vulnerable adults with complex needs, and offers pathways out of homelessness based on the principles of the Housing First model.
Their national headquarters are located in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, and they are well represented around the country with offices in Limerick City, Drogheda, Kildare and a southern regional office in Cork City. In 2021, the charity worked with over 10,000 people and was active in 28 local authorities across the country. Their vision is an Ireland that supports all those on the margins and upholds their rights to full inclusion in society.
But who is the priest that has become the ‘Champion of the Homeless’ in Dublin and in other locations around the country?
Peter McVerry was born on June 29, 1944 and grew up in Newry, where his father was a doctor. June 29th is the Feast of SS Peter and Paul and that’s where Peter’s Christian name comes from.
Peter said, ‘‘My father was a Catholic and he married my mother, a Welsh woman, Eleanor Adams. My mother was a Protestant and she changed her religion to Catholicism so that she could marry my father. I am the second eldest in the family of four, with two brothers and one sister.
Growing up as a Catholic in Northern Ireland in the fifties, Peter was very aware of the religious divide. He said, ‘‘When I was six or seven my father rented a house in Warrenpoint for a week during the summer. Naturally we went out to play and I found out that the girl next door was a Protestant. I remember running inside and asking my mother if it was a sin to play with a Protestant girl.
‘‘That was long before ‘The Troubles’, but the religious divide was very strong and you just absorbed it.’’
Continue reading in this year’s Christmas Annual