Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Canon John Devane RIP
I attended this morning the Requiem Mass of one of the great characters of our diocese, Canon John Devane, whom the Lord called to his eternal reward after more than fifty five years service as a priest. Seen above on the left, Canon Devane was Provost of the Cathedral Canons. For thirty seven years he was parish priest in the Church where I was baptised: St Matthew's, West Norwood. It was there that I got to know him when I was in a nearby parish and he was my Dean shortly after ordination. We soon struck up a friendship and most Sunday evenings I would call over to visit him for a cup of tea and a chat. He was a treasure trove of amusing stories. I honestly think he never forgot anything that ever happened to him.
Canon Devane had a great passion for young people. The Scouts and other uniformed groups flourished in his parish. In his earlier years he organised a Sunday soccer league (those who missed Mass weren't allowed to play!). His love for young people led to a great concern for education and he served not just as Governor for various schools and Colleges but also on the Education Committee of the Local Authority. He was never scared to speak his mind. It was always fun to sit next to him at official meetings where he would declare his opinion of speakers in 'stage-whispers'.
Of all the countless memories I have of the Canon there is one that always comes back to me. Shortly before Christmas I called in one year. I knew he had been collecting food parcels for the poor families of the parish and that they were to have been distributed by the SVP and other parish groups. I was surprised, therefore, to see about twenty or thirty packages in his room and asked had there been a problem with delivery. "Oh no", he replied, "all the others have gone out. These ones I'll deliver myself at Christmas - they are for the families people don't know to be having a hard time".
If I knew it before, I had forgotten, but I was very pleased to hear today that in recognition of his years of devoted service, Lambeth Council had named a road after the Canon:
Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace!