EDMONTON – Praising his integrity, faithfulness to the Gospel and his relentless pursuit of justice for all, Catholic Social Services presented the prestigious Bill Irwin Award of Excellence to social justice advocate Bob McKeon June 24.
The award is given yearly to an organization or an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the well-being of the community or who has demonstrated the highest standard of achievement in a human services field.
Irwin founded Catholic Social Services in Edmonton in 1961. Today, the agency provides professional service to people of all faiths and cultures, through more than 130 programs.
McKeon, director of social justice for the Edmonton Archdiocese, was granted the award "for his outstanding leadership and remarkable contributions in the area of social justice."
Father Mike McCaffery, who presented the award to McKeon at Catholic Social Services' 51st annual general meeting, described McKeon as a man of impeccable integrity and deep faith who possess a gentle and loving spirit and who tirelessly preaches the Gospel in words and action.
"Bob McKeon has been tireless in his evangelical efforts to transform the lives of the vulnerable, the homeless, the powerless and those whose voice often goes unheard," the priest said.
"He is a prophetic and compassionate leader whose keen intellect and exceptional organizational skills have enabled him to attain success in all he has undertaken in the service of God, his Church and his community."
McKeon said all the projects he has been involved in over the past 35 years have being team efforts, with participation from many partners, including lay people and women religious.
McKeon said since he returned to the social justice office of the archdiocese four years ago, he has found the close and collaborative partnership with CSS to be specially satisfying and productive, particularly in the work around issues of homelessness and affordable housing.
"We live today in a time of real historical opportunity and possibility," he said. "Just think of the public multi-year project to eliminate homelessness that we are doing, the whole project to eradicate poverty and the initiative to build right relationships with aboriginal peoples."
Recognition comes late in life for some, McKeon said. "I'm recognized at the time I get my old-age security cheques," he said to laughter from the audience.
However, he urged those present to look to the future and support, encourage and mentor a younger generation of social advocates and activists.