They say it is great to be needed, but Brother Kevin Crowley, who has taken care of Dublin’s poor for half a century, might beg to differ.
If in the last two decades, the country has been preoccupied with property – either by acquiring or aspiring a roof over one’s head – Br Kevin’s focus was exclusively on the homeless.
The Corkman will soon be leaving the Bow Street sanctuary he established in Dublin 53 years ago to return to his beloved county.
If, as Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”, Br Kevin made a home for thousands over the years.
The 87-year-old’s huge heart will be missed when he retires from the Capuchin Day Centre.
The 200 people he would greet first thing for breakfast and the 800 more who would come later for dinner every day, know they will never have a more gracious nor humble host again.
Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, who presented Br Kevin with the fourth Oireachtas Human Dignity Award in Leinster House last month, remarked: “A look at the history of the centre shows that in each decade since 1969, the Capuchins, led by Br Kevin, responded to the emerging problems in Irish society, whether it was caring for people discharged from residential care without social supports in the 1970s, or looking after the ‘new poor’ who were stranded with unpayable debts after the collapse of the banks in 2008.”
The honour was a tribute to “50 years of heroism”. In fact, the Capuchins’ care for the poor of Dublin goes back over 400 years.
Despite such devotion, if anything, the need for the Capuchins’ generosity has never been more acute in the capital. “It is our hope and prayer that one day there will be no need for our service because everyone will have the social and financial resources to live life to the full as God intended,” Br Kevin has said.
It took an exceptional heart to beat back the tides of suffering he witnessed daily in the city-centre soup kitchen.
He has given a voice to the voiceless, while seldom if ever, raising his own in anger.
Br Kevin refused to be despondent when a deaf ear was all he was offered. He spent a lifetime demonstrating how interdependent we all are, whether we acknowledge it or not.
So many are still just a month’s rent, or mortgage repayment, away from the street. While others spoke about a dip in the number of desirable properties to buy, Br Kevin spoke out, declaring a full-blown homelessness emergency.
“Home is where the heart’s tears can dry at their own pace,” they say.
Perhaps too many tears have fallen freely at the Bow Street centre, but more will flow in the dinner hall when Br Kevin locks up for the last time.
Albert Einstein said: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
Even by such an exacting evaluation, Br Kevin’s will surely be regarded as priceless.