IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘Lifesaver’ Father Kevin is welcomed back to Islington

Catholic priest helped homeless and vulnerable people during his 20 years in Archway

31 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Recovering alcoholic Francis Costello with Father Kevin McDevitt

A CATHOLIC priest who changed the lives of homeless people in Islington received a rapturous welcome when he came back for a visit to the borough on Monday.

Father Kevin ­Mc­Devitt, formerly of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, was greeted by around 50 well-wishers in St Gabriel’s community centre in Archway.

Those who turned out to celebrate his visit included members of the Chinese catholic community and formerly homeless people he helped get off the streets.

Father McDevitt worked in parishes across north London and Hertfordshire for 40 years, and spent 20 years preaching in Archway.

In his time there, Father McDevitt gave chances to homeless people, and always ensured there was a space for the vulnerable to become part of the community.

He dedicated a space in St Gabriel’s Community Centre to addiction groups and homeless outreach, and later invited the Chinese Catholic community of the borough to use the community centre when they were looking for a home.

Francis Costello, 63, told the Tribune he was a recovering alcoholic, and says he was saved by Father McDevitt many years ago.

The priest with ex-homeless man Simon Casey

“When I stopped drinking, I started going to mass,” he said.

“I met Father McDevitt and he was a big help to me. He saved me really.

“When I was unemployed he would help me out for a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread, that kind of thing.

“I haven’t had a drink now for 30 years, and all of that is down to Father McDevitt.”

Sam Jonas, another well-wisher who recalled the priest’s time in ­Archway, said: “Whether you’re homeless or coming to a new area, and you find someone who will give you food, that’s special. People around here got help and got themselves out of trouble because of Father ­Mc­Devitt.”

Dr Stephen Ng said the Chinese community would always be grateful to Father McDevitt for welcoming them into the centre.

“We’re very grateful to him, his openness is unbelievable,” said Dr Ng.

“He took us in and gave us a home in the community. He’s a very good man.”

Speaking to the ­Tribune, Father McDevitt explained he came to London for three years, and stayed for 40.

“I’m completely shocked at the turnout, but it’s very welcome.”

Father McDevitt will now return to his original home in Ireland, having moved there in 2014.

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