Kirk, David 1935-2007

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Kirk, David 1935-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born March 12, 1935, in Louisville, MS; died May 23, 2007, in New York, NY. Priest, activist, and author. A Melkite priest who later joined the Eastern Orthodox Church, Kirk was founder of Emmaus House, a communal home that served the poor and other needy people in the Bronx. Kirk's desire to help the needy manifested itself by the early age of twelve, when he aided a family friend he believed was wrongly accused of murder. The young Kirk brought the man food in his hideout in the Louisiana woods until he eventually escaped the state. While in high school, kirk was incensed by racism in the South and wrote about the issue as editor of his school paper. He convinced school leaders to let him transfer to an all-black school to do a story for the paper, but his real motive was to experience for himself life in a minority school. Kirk then enrolled at the University of Alabama, where he met a Roman Catholic chaplain who was working for the civil rights cause; he became one of the activists who tried to keep the university's first black student, Autherine Lucy, from harm as she enrolled. Inspired by the chaplain, Kirk converted to Melkite Catholicism, a denomination that follows Eastern rites but still declares the pope to be head of the Church. Completing a degree in social science, he continued his education at Columbia, where he earned a master's degree in social thought in 1961. While in graduate school he met Dorothy Day, a Catholic social reformer who was a kind of mentor and was the one who later suggested he establish a communal house in the Bronx. Before he did so, Kirk was active in the civil rights movement and found himself jailed on several occasions, sometimes along with Martin Luther King, Jr. Kirk was a theology student at Beda College in Rome during the early 1960s and was ordained in 1964. He then returned to New York City to found Emmaus House in 1966. Not intended as merely a shelter, the home was a place to support the needs of not only the poor, but also of drug addicts and people suffering from AIDS. Free food, counseling, and job training were offered. At its height, the communal residence had room for seventy people, as well as apartments around the city. Kirk, who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2004, suffered from kidney ailments. He was receiving treatments when he passed away, though kidney failure was not immediately known to be the cause of his death. Kirk, who was buried next to Day, was the coeditor of Underground Church (1968) and editor of Quotations from Chair Jesus: The Good News of Revolution (1969).



Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2007, Section 4, p. 10.

New York Times, June 4, 2007, p. A21.