To purchase a copy of "Our Neighbour's Keeper," please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780-391-3232.
Catholic Social Services is pleased to announce the release of “Our Neighbour’s Keeper,” a biography honoring the agency’s founder, Father Bill Irwin. The biography was commissioned in celebration of the agency’s 60th anniversary, and was co-authored by Graham Hicks and Jeananne Kathol Kirwin.
“CSS founder, Monsignor William Irwin, was a man of his times, and yet ahead of his time. He was, at once, a man who loved living well, and a man of humility, compassion and endless generosity,” says Kathol Kirwin. “He was so humble that despite receiving numerous honours, including Monsignor, he insisted upon being called “Father Bill.”
Father Bill founded Catholic Social Services in 1961, as a young priest with just $5,000 and a deep and profound calling to serve. Believing that no one in need should be turned away, Father Bill challenged the status quo and did not shy away from controversial work. He opened Kairos House in 1989, at the height of Canada’s AIDs epidemic. The first and only program of its kind in Edmonton, Kairos was a safe place for men living with HIV and AIDS to receive hospice care and live their final days in dignity. Catholic Social Services did this work despite widespread criticism, which escalated to threats against the agency’s founder and staff.
“Father Bill never chose the easy road. He looked at the world around him and the options before him and he chose to do what needed to be done, despite how difficult doing the ‘right thing,’ might be,” says CEO, Dr. Troy Davies. “He was a man who believed deeply in caring for and serving the most vulnerable among us. His legacy has become our mission, and that mission has become our calling to serve. We are proud to continue his legacy today.”
In honour and recognition of his service and the impact his work had on central Alberta, Father Bill was twice elevated to the Order of Canada and named as one of the City of Edmonton’s Top 100 citizens. Father Bill operated CSS until 2002, although he continued to remain involved in many areas of public service until his death in 2004.
Today, Catholic Social Services has grown to become one of the largest multifunction social service agencies in western Canada, employing 1,900 staff and serving more than 20,000 vulnerable people annually. The agency operates more than 100 properties in 12 communities across central Alberta, focusing its efforts on all facets of social services, working with individuals with disabilities, welcoming newcomers and refugees to Canada, and providing supports and services to vulnerable women, children, and families.
“Graham (Hicks) and I each met Father Bill in his later years. Although we didn’t know him in his prime, we held a deep respect and even awe for the man,” says Kathol Kirwin. “Then, with my research and writing, I came to truly love Father Bill. And we think you will, too, when you read this book.”