As a priest, he had contacts with many local charitable organisations and helped wherever he could. At the time, I used to lead a small Christian group at his church consisting of a dozen or so youngsters aged 18 to 21/22 who used to meet weekly for prayer meetings, discussions, sharing meals together and so on. Basically it was a meeting place for young people in a Christian environment.
One day, Father A told me about a small hostel in town for single women, victims of marital abuse, or the homeless or for some reason women going through some difficulties or other. He said there was a woman from that hostel who was currently in prison but was due to be released in three weeks' time. It would be a nice gesture if my group of youngsters would decorate her room. He had discussed it with the hostel manager who agreed the idea.
I told my weekly group and they enthusiastically agreed. One evening we turned up at the hostel and were shown the room in question. In brief, it was very shabby and dirty.
The youngsters decided the room needed new wall paper or perhaps the walls repainted. The wooden window frames too. They said the carpets needed to be taken away and cleaned. Also the curtains. And a new lampshade would be in order. And ... and ... and ...
The first week they quickly got to work stripping away the wall paper and the old paint from the window frames. They turned up every evening or so after their daily jobs and worked for a couple of hours in this woman's room. As time went by the number attending dwindled to a few. Those attending were disheartened to be the only ones there, they chatted for a while whilst doing nothing and left. I was there at all times and was concerned we would not meet the deadline.
The room was now in a worst state than before with walls mostly stripped of wall paper, bits of wall paper and old paint from the window frames on the floor, dust and dirt everywhere, no curtains or carpets or lampshade and so on.
I went to see Father A and told him of lack of progress and said that I was prepared to hire a professional painter/decorator and would pay him to do the job properly. Father A said No; he forbade me to hire anyone. He told me to let the youngsters get on with the project and if they did not finish it on time at least they would know that they took on a job voluntarily and did not complete it. I reluctantly agreed. Father A told me that if the job is not done in time one of the parishioners would complete it after the woman was released from prison.
As the due date got nearer the youngsters realised they had to work faster. More of them turned up, at times all of them, and together they worked well into the evening. In the corner of the room there was a handbasin and mirror on the wall. The basin was cracked although still functional. There was nothing the youngsters could do about that. I got a friend of mine who was a plumber to take the basin out and replaced with a new one and the area was nicely redecorated by the young people.
The job was completed in time. We never got to meet the woman living in that room; which is right and proper.
The young people, perhaps for the first time in their lives, had done something kind and charitable for someone they did not even know. I'm sure they will always remember that experience. They grew up to be good citizens and parents.
And I learnt from Father A that the best way to teach people to be responsible is by giving them responsibility.
May he rest in peace and pray for us.