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"LEY" 2003 Obituary


LEYS o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-04 published
Kassie (Katharine) TEMPLE
By Colin LEYS Friday, April 4, 2003 - Page A18
A Canadian who served God and defended the poor of New York. Born June 8, 1944, in Port Hope, Ontario Died November 22, 2002, in New York City, from cancer, aged 58.
No one who talked with Kassie TEMPLE for more than 10 minutes could fail to realize that she was one of the more remarkable people they were ever likely to meet.
Kassie was an Anglican who worked in a Catholic organization and wrote regularly for its newspaper. She was a radical social critic, but opposed to all political parties. A passionate seeker after religious truth, she spent long hours studying the Bible in Hebrew. She was a gifted teacher and powerful debater (woe betide anyone who rashly assumed this religious social worker would be easy to outsmart); above all a fearless, tireless worker with the homeless, sick and abandoned people of her quarter of Manhattan.
She was born in Port Hope, Ontario, where her father was bursar of Trinity College School. After high school, Kassie studied religion at McMaster University. From there she went in the mid-1960s to work for the Canadian International Development Agency in Ottawa and then headed off for two years to Sierra Leone in West Africa, looking after Canadian teachers with the Canadian University Students Overseas. She retained several close Friends from the Canadian University Students Overseas contingent.
She returned to Canada, and McMaster, in 1970 to work with the eminent Canadian philosopher George GRANT, writing a doctoral thesis on the French theologian and sociologist Jacques Ellul. In 1975, she began teaching at the University of Manitoba at Brandon.
One day in 1977 she travelled to New York to see Dorothy DAY, who with Peter MAURIN had founded the Catholic Worker, a group dedicated to nonviolence and solidarity with the poor and other victims of capitalist society. Kassie had been introduced to them some years earlier through a friend at McMaster, but this visit proved a turning point.
From New York she called a friend in Brandon and asked her to get rid of all her belongings, and from then until her death she lived in Mary House, one of two Catholic Worker homes in Manhattan's Lower East Side (she remained an Anglican, however one with a lifelong interest in developing closer understanding between beliefs, including between Christians and Jews). She took to wearing cast-off clothes donated by well-wishers, making her famous soups and stews, caring and fighting for anyone and everyone who was underprivileged, poor, sick, or neglected: prisoners in jail, patients in hospital, elderly people trapped in dingy nursing homes. She took time out only to look after her father in Port Hope for his last three years, saying "it's too bad if you can't look after your own father."
Kassie's religious faith was intense, but she had no trace of religiosity. Last year a visitor asked her why she was wearing a Yankees hat back to front. Oh, she explained, it was just a hat that had been donated, "and we're all Mets fans here."
She could have been a professor, a civil servant, or a diplomat. Instead she identified herself with the poor. However unhappy, sick or difficult they might be, they were never people she worked for or did good to; they were family and Friends.
Kassie was diagnosed with cancer early in 2002. After bearing intense pain very bravely she died peacefully at Mary House, surrounded by her Friends. During the three years she had devoted to looking after her father in Port Hope she made the same sort of impact on that small community as she did in New York. A huge congregation attended her funeral service in Port Hope.
She leaves a painful gap but also an inspiring example, for Canadians as well as her much-loved New Yorkers.
Colin LEYS is Kassie TEMPLE's cousin.

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