Last Friday, June 17, South Boston’s Paraclete Center named its main hall for benefactor Paul McDevitt, a man whose spirit indeed partakes of The Paraclete (you might have heard that Paul hasn’t been well). The Paraclete’s yard was filled with Paul’s family and friends, pipes were sounded, and the naming ceremony began.
Eileen DeMichele, Executive Director of the Paraclete Center opened and capably emceed the ceremony. She welcomed those attending. Father Cyril blessed the occasion, as well as the newly named McDevitt Hall. Board Chair Joseph Harney formally dedicated the hall; Albert Kaneb paid a well-deserved tribute to his friend Paul McDevitt. Mayor Martin J. Walsh delivered a brief speech in praise of Paul and his efforts. There is that well-known cliché about “seeing grown men cry.” Well, that cliché came true last Friday.
Kevin Conroy was the piper. Poet Alan O’Hare read a verse in praise of Paul, while accompanied by accordionist Cullin Kadis. Rose Placid beautifully sang “Be Not Afraid” and “Amazing Grace”. The crowd joined in. A thank-you was given to the members of Ironworkers Local 7, who will fabricate the wrought iron gate in front of McDevitt Hall. The Paraclete staff presented a delicious collation afterwards.
Paul prepared some remarks to close the naming ceremony. But his condition has robbed Paul of his voice, so his wife Suzanne Bump delivered his remarks after declaring her love and regard for him. It was a poignant moment. We can do no better than to quote Paul’s words, as read by Suzanne:
“Every time I come to this building, my thoughts reach back to its original residents, the Catholic women who lived here … women who gave their lives to prayer and to the service of others. Their prayer was their service and their service was their prayer. That spirit lingers about this building just as the scent lingers after flowers have been removed from the room. And the holy spirit is the meaning of the word ‘Paraclete’ …the Holy Spirit, the relationship between God and His Son.
“Long ago I was taught that man is composed of three parts. We are physical, mental, and spiritual in nature. I was taught that we had to pay attention to, to nurture, all three parts, just as we needed three legs on a milking stool. With fewer than three legs, the stool falls over. With legs of unequal length, it tips to one side. Equal development of all the areas are necessary for a balanced life … and then I forgot the lesson.
“Many years later, in the middle of my life, consumed by a drug called alcohol, I miraculously found my way to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was in A.A. that I learned my daily reprieve from drinking was based on my spiritual condition. And I began to bring my three-legged stool into balance. This balance allowed me to see, among other things, how my life was enriched by other people. Each one of you here today is that other person. And I hope that I have been that other person for you.
“Today I am humbled and enriched by this honor and by your presence. I hope to always remember how much I owe to others. And so I offer this prayer for all of us … ‘Dear God, may we always be open to seeing the beauty in each other. May we cherish our moments of human companionship and may we be companions to the lonely. We pray this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Paraclete. Amen.’”
The naming ceremony of McDevitt Hall was South Boston at its very best.