THE CV OF MICHAEL DESMOND DENNEHY: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF A CHRISTIAN IN ACTION
Michael, (Mick) was born on 8 February 1923 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and was educated at Christian Brothers College, Kimberley.
After school he entered the OMI Novitiate, but, after a year, he was advised to leave due to ill health. On returning to the lay life he joined his brother-in-law in the outfitting business on the West Rand, Johannesburg.
His father had great influence on his young spiritual life by instilling in him the social responsibilities taught in the Gospels. Mick married Mary Goodall in 1951 and they eventually adopted three children, two sons and a daughter, the daughter, Elizabeth is married and lives in Waterford, Ireland.
At an early stage as a young adult Mick demonstrated his compassion for fellow human beings by becoming involved in various parish and other caring organizations. His main involvement was with those in dire need; the poor, destitute and oppressed.
After retiring in 1990, he started a group known as the Concerned Christian Action Group. The main objective of this group being to actively seek out the poorest of the poor, the sick and the hungry and to give whatever assistance he could to help them obtain what was due to them. His example caught the attention of corporate and religious bodies which came to his aid with finance and other resources. These bodies included mining houses, individuals and the Jesuit fathers.
Micks main mission is to assist those who are entitled to any state benefits or grants but who, due to poverty, illness, old age or illiteracy, are unable to help themselves. He actively seeks out these needy people by going into townships and elsewhere and taking them to where they need to be, then, if necessary, fighting their cases until they obtain what is their due. In many instances he has exposed corruption and graft and has, as a result, not always been popular with some officials.
One of Micks great motivating factors is Pope John Paul 11s Ecclesia in Africa and the concept of Community Serving Humanity. When asked what keeps him going at the age of ninety years, his reply is if we claim to be Christians then we should be doing what Scripture tells us, no matter our age.
Over the years Mick has developed an excellent rapport with influential officials and this has enabled him to succeed in his mission where many others might have failed. During one of his missions he was accompanied by an SABC journalistic Team and he later appeared on the investigative programme, Special Assignment. Mick is, however, a very humble person and seeks no acclaim for his work. He is adamant that he is doing only what all Christians should be doing.
Mick has documented many of his cases, only for purposes of having a store of information for future cases. The writer has had sight of these and the facts are quite remarkable. Cases include:
Assisting an aged destitute man to obtain 12 years back-paid pension which was due to him and never paid.
A destitute quadriplegic lady was close to death, living alone in a shack. She was unable to obtain medical treatment. Mick went to her aid by contacting the highest medical authorities at the local state hospital and, after great effort, getting her admitted and treated and placed in care.
Countless poverty stricken and aged and illiterate people have been assisted to obtain identity documents in order to enable them to access state grants and services. This was not done from distance but by going out to visit each person at their homes and by going the whole way with them.
At the age of ninety he is still active on a daily basis in his service to the community and his tenacity in dealing with reluctant officials has not wavered.
Whilst Mick seeks no recognition, it is felt that this award will assist greatly in serving as a public example and could be a motivating factor in spurring others in our community to become involved and eventually continue the good work when Mick is no longer able.
Pastoral Council Chairman: ..
Parish Priest: ..
Fr I Fidgeon OMI