Farewell remarks by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., for the Rev. Patrick McDevitt, C.M., the new president of All Hallows College in Dublin
August 24, 2011
[Editor’s note: The Rev. Patrick McDevitt, C.M., associate professor in DePaul’s College of Education, was named the first American president of All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland. He started his new position in fall 2011. Established in 1842, All Hallows College is a Catholic, non-publicly funded Vincentian college. It began as a seminary for missionary priests, transitioned to providing pastoral training to laypeople in the 1980s and since has added a variety of educational programs for traditional and nontraditional students. Father McDevitt had a 12-year association with DePaul, holding both faculty and administrative posts that prepared him well for his new position. He holds a master’s and a doctoral degree from Loyola University of Maryland; a master’s of divinity degree from St. Thomas Seminary and a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College Seminary.]
It’s never easy to say goodbye to a friend, even when “half-a-world-away” now means eight-hours-away by plane. All Hallows College’s great fortune is certainly our loss at DePaul.
· We lose easy access to a friend to be sure.
· We lose a powerful voice in our College of Education for Catholic education.
· We lose a powerful voice for the Vincentian mission of the college;
· A voice goading us to care deeply about the students;
· A voice that cared deeply for the good functioning of his department and the college in general.
DePaul University as a whole loses a generous university citizen who always said “Yes” to any assignment, including most recently an appointment on the central strategic planning committee.
But more than that, we lose a priest. A good priest, at that. An energetic, passionate preacher. A man who cares deeply about our lives and journeys. A man who simply was a witness to all of us of someone who found great meaning and purpose in life in his religion and in relationship with his God.
Thankfully, the college has others of similar passion and conviction, but it will not be Patrick who will be pounding the table and making the points.
The university certainly has other priests and other faculty, administrators and staff who care deeply about the Vincentian mission and who themselves are witnesses to the power and place of religion in providing meaning and purpose in life. But it will not be Patrick prodding and encouraging us, and so I repeat myself: All Hallows’ great fortune is certainly our loss.
Still, there’s a quiet sense of pride that one of our own has been chosen.
There’s an admiration that he has once again said “Yes” to an assignment, and in this case, a challenging one. I perhaps shouldn’t be the one to say it, but these jobs aren’t easy. Once the newness wears off, there’s an unending stream of challenges to solve. There’s a reason the word “administrator” comes from the root “to minister.” Pat’s accepted a service role at All Hallows on behalf of everyone who is part of that long and storied institution – its students, its faculty and staff, the Church of Ireland itself, its alumni, Ireland. All of them think well of All Hallows, and all of them are blessed by its existence and work. And in this day and age, a small institution’s continued existence and vitality is a constant work of creativity and love. “To Minister,” indeed. Pat’s accepted not so much a prestigious title as a real “roll-up-your-sleeves-with-your-colleagues-and-let’s-solve-this” kind of job.
And so, our admiration. And perhaps our prayer and promise of continued friendship and active support.
Back in 1864, the Vincentian community decided to honor the work of St. Vincent de Paul by buying property in the small French town of Dax, in fact, the actual piece of property on which St. Vincent was born and raised.
They decided not merely to build a museum to him. They renovated his birth place and house to be sure, and protected the 400-year-old tree that was still growing in front of the house and that he would have known. But they also built a chapel, a seminary, an orphanage and a hospice for the elderly. The idea was that they wanted to honor St. Vincent’s birthplace not just with a museum, but with active works that carried on his work for the poor. Not an historical monument, but a living monument.
And then they wrote above the door to his home the Latin phrase, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, “Per Transit Benefaciendo.” (“He went about doing good.” Acts 10:38.)
To pay for all this building, the Vincentians got permission to run a lottery in France. They also fund-raised across the nation from the wealthiest people they could find. To thank those donors, they commissioned several busts of St. Vincent de Paul, and gave them as gifts to those who had helped them honor the legacy of St. Vincent in a living way.
We located one of those busts first made in 1864 in Europe and, today, I’d like to give it to Fr. Pat as a sign of our continuing love and affection from all of us at DePaul University. You too go about doing good. You too keep the work of St. Vincent alive for yet another generation. And so you will do for All Hallows.
But mostly, we simply want you to look at this statue and think of everyone at DePaul, the university community of women and men who today also continue St. Vincent’s work. Remember, half a world away (or eight hours away, as the case may be), that you will always be part of our family, and that you will always find friends, support and a home here.
God bless you, Pat. And God bless All Hallows.