Father Aengus Finucane pic

A Man after the Playwright’s Heart:
A Tribute to Father Aengus Finucane


Father Aengus Finucane (1932-2009) — co-founder of Concern Worldwide, the international humanitarian organization — was not a man of letters in the strict sense. But he was a reader of human hearts, where he saw the capacity of men and women for compassion and generosity. He inspired countless people from all walks of life to do something to help the poorest of the poor — those beyond the margin of most of the world’s caring.

Aengus was known for his fire in the belly — he often said: "We have a strong inclination to do evil. You have to fight like hell to do good!"

Aengus was a man writ large in all respects, in words and deeds, in energy and appetite, in his love for people, his thirst for justice and fairness, and his love of life. He loved a good party as well, and was convinced that the best exchange of minds and friendship — building would take place at night, over a glass or two of whiskey.

This courageous and fearless man, who sacrificed material luxuries for the challenge of some of the world’s most major crises in Africa and Asia, would have been quick to dismiss any notion of saintliness. But the argument can be made that in his commitment to fighting poverty and championing the poorest he wasn’t far off the mark.

He believed in the good, without denying the existence of darkness in people’s hearts and minds as well as in his own. Vigorous action marked his career and life.

Aengus, with his instinctive sensitivity and understanding of humanity, could well have been a character in one of Eugene O’Neill’s plays or served as the playwright’s alter ego — perhaps someone off stage who serves as a model, or someone to give counsel to a principal personage confronting a major life-changing decision or the pain of failing to act in the past. Father Matthew Baird in Days Without End comes to mind — but Aengus was certainly not priestly in the traditional sense.

Aengus knew the high cost of non-action and the consequences of the all too human tendency to postpone hard work as long as possible. The good is never guaranteed victory, and he knew this well.

But Aengus was aware of every individual’s great potential, his or her enormous inner resources, and freedom of choice to do the right thing at every single moment. In this light, Aengus’ love for the people of Haiti isn’t surprising.

Concern launched emergency programs there in 1994 in the wake of a massive hurricane. Aengus was deeply moved by the Haitians’ resilience in the face of devastating hardship. Over the years, he was struck, countless times, by their inner resources, their innate optimism, and their refusal to give up no matter the circumstances.

He did not live to witness the horrors of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that utterly devastated Port-au-Prince. He would have grieved, but his faith in the Haitian people would have been unshaken, and his determination to work alongside them to recover and rebuild would have been stronger than ever.

—Joop Koopman, Concern Worldwide’s Press Officer (5/3/2010)