By: John Buell, June 1975
I have the honour to present to you Mr. Anthony Walsh.
He is best described, in the formal terms of this occasion, and in a quite literal sense, as a philanthropist; one who acted out of love and concern for his fellow human beings.
His philanthropy was basic and total: quite simply, he gave himself.
In the early 1950's -,to touch only on that part of his life, all of which was spent in the service of others - in response to the unseen and unheeded poverty in Montreal, and with the assistance of a small group of friends, he decided to give all his time and all his efforts to the poor in our society.
He did it by binding himself to total and voluntary poverty, which meant that he would own nothing and seek to own nothing, a condition slightly worse than that of the poor. With this vast difference; that he would also give away all that he received, that he would awaken the conscience of the Christian community, awaken it to the very Gospels it professed and by which he actually lived. He wore donated clothing, he ate donated food., lived in the same run down district as those who had to, and received the same criticism of not living a constructive life.
And the house he ran, with the help of those friends, and others as the place became better known, was constantly filled with the broken, the criminal, the mentally ill, the hungry, the castoffs of our society. The place was called Benedict Labre House, after a Saint who himself had been a wandering poor man. And over the years, 20 years, thousands of people came to work, to give, to help - and they do so today.
Along with this went the intellectual work; the peaceful introduction of new ideas, the re-assignment of spiritual values, the expression of new modes of religious enterprise. Long before it was fashionable to do so, Labre House was a centre for ecumenical exchange, for dialogue between races, for understanding between cultures.
The man who started all this, Tony Walsh, as he is called by all who know him, lived by the paradoxes of the Gospel. Instead of affluence, he chose poverty; instead of conflict, peace; instead of publicity and self-seeking, he chose anonymity; and in an age of fashionable hedonism, he chose a personal celibacy.
In honouring Tony Walsh, and through him the people of Labre House, we acknowledge the profoundest aspects of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.
Mr. Chancellor, I am honoured to present to you, on behalf of the University Senate, and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Mr. Anthony Walsh, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
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