Tributes were paid to the recently retired Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey, at a civic luncheon hosted by Belfast City Council.
Dean McKelvey and his wife Roberta were accompanied to the City Hall by Canon Bro David Jardine, Monsignor Tom Toner and Very Rev Dr Hugh Kennedy, the present and former Administrators of St Peter’s Cathedral and representatives of the Cathedral community.
They were welcomed to the Lord Mayor’s Parlour by the then Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Pat Convery, and councillors from all parties.
The Lord Mayor said the occasion recognised Dean McKelvey’s contribution to the life of the city.
“As Dean of St Anne’s Cathedral from 2001 to the end of March this year, 2011 you presided over many major civic and commemorative events, from thanksgiving and memorial services to the commissioning of the award-winning ‘Spire of Hope’, changing the city’s skyline,” the Lord Mayor said.
“You kept the very best of traditions by continuing the ‘Black Santa’ sit-outs over Christmas and raising, with a team from the cathedral chapter and others, considerable sums of money for good causes and responding also to world events such as the Haiti earthquake. You have always been a keen communicator, evidenced through many publications as well as journalistic and broadcasting contributions.”
The Lord Mayor said the Dean had richly deserved his OBE for services to the community in Northern Ireland, and he also paid tribute to Mrs McKelvey. “I know that she has been a tower of strength and support to you in undertaking the position as Dean and, amongst other things, has also been a pivotal figure in the Mothers’ Union. Your lives have been characterised by your strong Christian faith.”
The Lord Mayor continued: “On a personal note, I remember your role as the education representative for the Church of Ireland and your very positive contributions at meetings of the Belfast Education and Library Board. I know that I also speak on behalf of previous Civic Dignitaries and our Chief Executive when I express our gratitude to you for the way in which you welcomed us when attending services at the Cathedral.
“During this period you have also developed important relations with St Peter’s Cathedral and worked very closely with Father Kennedy creating a close bond between our two cathedrals – enhancing the civic life of our city.”
The Lord Mayor expressed gratitude to all those from churches in Belfast who contributed so much to the life of the city. “As public representatives, we see at first hand the support you give to the community and the life changing contribution you make to the people of Belfast.”
Before making a presentation to Dean and Mrs McKelvey, the Lord Mayor wishes them an active retirement.
In response, Dean McKelvey said that from the outset of his ministry at the cathedral he had determined to work with the Mayor of the City regardless of their political party. He highlighted two areas in particular. The manner in which both cathedrals had co-operated in the city’s response to 9/11 and a service organised at the request of a Lord Mayor and with the help of St Peter’s which was attended by present and former members of the security forces and people of all political persuasions to commemorate those who had died in the First World War and to help heal the memories. Dean McKelvey presented the Lord Mayor with a print of St Anne’s Cathedral.
Former Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor William Humphries, highlighted Dean McKelvey’s service to the scout movement and former Mayors Jim Rodgers, Tom Hartley and Tom Eakin, and the Chief Executive, Mr Peter McNaney also paid tribute to the Dean’s ministry to the city and emphasised the warm welcome they all had received at the cathedral. Councillors Tim Attwood and Hugh Smyth, another former mayor, were also present.