Prea­cher and pro­tec­tor

Le Messager Lachine & Dorval - - LOCAL NEWS - DA­VID COX da­vid.cox@tc.tc

SOCIETY. Be­fore he was «Pops», Fa­ther Em­mett Johns was priest at Bi­shop Whe­lan High School and the pa­rish priest at the Church of the Re­sur­rec­tion in La­chine. He died on Ja­nua­ry 13 at 89 year-old and since his pas­sing, there has been an out­pou­ring of gra­ti­tude that has fol­lo­wed him to his rest. His de­vo­tion to his mis­sion ins­pi­red people from all walks of life, as de­mons­tra­ted by the peers, pu­blic fi­gures and street youth present du­ring his pu­blic fu­ne­ral.

At the age of 60, when most people look to re­tire, Fa­ther Johns be­lie­ved that his ‘cal­ling from God’ had not en­ded. Even af­ter near­ly 40 years as a pa­rish priest, he felt drawn to reach out to the ci­ty’s at-risk youth. “It just kind of came to me I should be with the kids, I should help them,» he was quo­ted as saying.

"It was the way he pur­sued his cal­ling that ins­pires me the most. When God cal­led him to serve dif­fe­rent­ly he never he­si­ta­ted. He left his pa­rish, took out a loan, bought a mo­to­rhome and hit the streets,» ex­plains Epi­pha­ny Church’s Re­ve­rend Brian Per­ron.

That mo­to­rhome be­came the base of ope­ra­tions for the Le Bon Dieu dans la rue and the le­gend was born.

THE GREAT TRANS­FOR­MER

It be­gan at Re­sur­rec­tion pa­rish with the bles­sing of Bi­shop Leo­nard Crow­ley. Fa­ther Em­mett was re­lie­ved from Pas­tor­ship to be­gin or­ga­ni­zing his street mi­nis­try. "Re­sur­rec­tion pa­ri­shio­ners hel­ped to re­vamp the Win­ne­ba­go, the St. Vincent de Paul Society-la­chine do­na­ted hot dogs and buns, and pa­ri­shio­ners / C.W.L. mem­bers made moun­tains of sand­wiches and co­okies," re­mem­bers re­ti­red pas­tor Fa­ther John Ken­ne­dy.

Pops be­gan par­king the mo­tor home at the han­gouts street kids would frequent, of­fe­ring warmth, food, cof­fee and his at­ten­tion. Pan­hand­ler or pros­ti­tute, Pops trea­ted eve­ryone he met as a per­son.

The first days were a chal­lenge trying to break through to the tou­ghe­ned teens, but Pops did it. Wi­thin two years, more than 100 people would eat eve­ry night. Since 1988, Dans la rue has grown with an emer­gen­cy shel­ter known as “the Bun­ker”, ope­ned in 1993, and the Chez Pops day centre on On­ta­rio Street a few year la­ter.

"I wel­co­med a mi­nor in­to my home as a fos­ter pa­rent in the fall of 2017, a youth from Ni­ge­ria aban­do­ned at the Dor­val air­port. He en­ded up in down­town Mon­treal, alone and vul­ne­rable. Le ‘bon dieu dans la rue’ shel­te­red him in the ‘The Bun­ker’ where he was safe at night un­til so­cial ser­vices could find a lon­ger term so­lu­tion," Da­vid Lef­nes­ki, Mi­nis­ter and Com­mu­ni­ty Lea­der in Sou­th­west, Ver­dun re­calls.

To­day the or­ga­ni­za­tion has a team of 65 em­ployees and over 135 vo­lun­teers.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s evo­lu­tion will al­ways be gui­ded by Pops’ phi­lo­so­phy of de­di­ca­tion, em­pa­thy and res­pect.

(Pho­to: TC Me­dia – Ar­chives)

Fa­ther Em­mett Johns re­cei­ving the Ordre Na­tio­nal du Que­bec as a Grand Of­fi­cer in 2003.

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