Dan Heap (1925-2014): A Tribute

Dan Heap
Long before I had ever heard of Dorothy Day,
and long before I had heard of someone being a ‘worker priest’
I was inspired by the politics of Dan Heap.

As I was coming to political awareness in the 70’s,
it was Dan Heap’s social vision that caught my imagination;
it was Dan Heap’s down to earth radicalism that inspired me;
it was Dan Heap’s voice for the marginal that gave me a political vision;
it was Dan Heap’s civic vision that hooked me on municipal politics.

But it wasn’t until the early 80’s that I saw Dan as a prophet.
On a Wednesday noon hour I went to the Eucharist
at Montreal Diocesan College,
and there was Dan Heap.

Dan, the priest in vestments.

Dan, preaching on what it meant to follow Jesus.

Dan, breaking the bread and pouring the wine
in solidarity with broken bodies
and shed blood,
on First Nations Reserves across this country,
in the civil wars of Central America,
in the garment factories of India,
on the streets of Toronto.

Jesus and justice.
You won’t have one without the other.

And Dan knew that to throw in his lot with Jesus
meant throwing in his lot with the homeless and the poor,
with workers and those ravaged by war.

Blessed are the poor.
Dan would find himself always in the company of the poor.

Blessed are those who mourn.
Dan was driven by a solidarity of pain with the oppressed.

Blessed are the meek.
Dan’s political life was about service, not self-aggrandizement.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.
Dan’s longing for justice was insatiable.

Blessed are the merciful.
Dan’s mercy was rooted in justice, not charity.

Blessed are the pure in heart.
Dan’s heart was purified by his longing for one thing – justice.

Blessed are the peacemakers.
Dan would fight hard for peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted and slandered.
Dan took a lot of flack in his life, because that’s what they do to prophets.

I had only met Dan a few times.
We were not friends, not even acquaintances.

But every time I saw Dan,
whether at a protest or a press scrum,
at church or riding his bike in Toronto,
I found that I could believe just a little more.

Dan Heap died yesterday.
He leaves behind a community of aching visionaries,
in which I am proud to be an interloper.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

2 Responses to “Dan Heap (1925-2014): A Tribute”

  1. Andy Heap

    You are one of the few who are coherent in your view on him.

  2. Joe Mihevc

    What a wonderful way to remember a remarkable worker, priest, social advocate. I too have a number of strong images when I think of Dan Heap. Well done Brian!


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