Dr Hickey Surgery
The Dr Hickey general practice was opened in 1987 to meet the medical needs of homeless people in Westminster. Located in the basement of the Cardinal Hume Centre, it cares for people living in hotels and hostels, squats and refuges, as well as street homeless. It was founded by Sister Dr Mary Hickey a nun from Newcastle. You can read about her and the founding of the Surgery on the Cardinal Hume Centre website >>
Dr Hickey's GP practice partner is Fr Paul O’Reilly SJ (or Dr Paul O'Reilly), a Jesuit priest and a medical doctor, who can also often be heard preaching at Farm St Church.
The practice has a Street Doctor Programme - a medical outreach project where practice staff carry out night walks through the local streets and parks. They talk to rough sleepers, identify their medical needs and address those needs in ways which are likely to improve both their general health and their ability to access other homelessness services, with the ultimate aim of permanent resettlement.
Taken from the Guardian, December 2015:
The motivation of the surgery is easily summarised: to provide general practice to the homeless population that is as good as everybody else expects. What it delivers can’t be described so neatly and tidily. “Homeless people on the whole are sicker than most people,” Dr O’Reilly explains. “Their medical needs are quite often what cause them to be homeless, cause them to remain homeless and to get worse while they are homeless. Yet they also have less access to medical services. That’s why they are forever ending up in A&E departments, which aren’t equipped to meet their needs.”
Fr Paul is a regular contributor to the Jesuit blog "Ignatian Insight" where you can read some of his homilies and stories about the way he has been called to serve God, through that most unusual joint vocation as Priest and Doctor.
Paul is also a regular contributor to the province blog "Ignatian Insight" where you can read some of his homilies and stories of the way he has been called to serve God, being that most unusual of things, Priest/Doctor. Paul on our blog >>
My Way of Serving Jesus
Fr Paul O'Reilly writes:
‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’
The year I was ordained, they put me into a parish in North London. I was young, keen and enthusiastic, so they thought they had better put me somewhere safe, where I couldn’t do too much damage.
And when I arrived, I unpacked and the first thing I did was to wash my clothes. One of the others remarked to me – “you don’t have to bother doing your own washing. Here, we have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us.”
I met Mrs. Jones. She was 82, very bent and stiff with arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a young fit boy should make her wash his clothes made my blood boil with the sense of injustice. I would rather have a millstone hung round my neck than add to her burdens in life. So, for several weeks I washed my own clothes and felt very righteous about it indeed. That should have been my warning. Generally, it is only when I’m feeling righteous that I do really stupid things.
Then, one day, my superior took me to one side. He was a very wise and gentle man. And he said to me: “Paul, I need to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash.”
And I asked, “But why?” And I went on to tell him why I thought that this was the most terrible clericalist imposition on a poor old sick woman. I fear I may even have got in a paragraph or two of Vatican II on the vocation of the laity and one or two quotations from Paolo Freire. And, as I talked, I could see that, in a very quiet way, my superior was getting very angry indeed. And when I had finished talking, he simply said: “Look, I want you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash. OK? Just do it!”
So, with my tail firmly between my legs, I just did it. I brought all my dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs Jones. She seemed delighted. So I asked her how she felt about having to wash the Fathers’ clothes. She said, very simply, “I love it – it’s my way of serving Jesus.”
I realised that, in my arrogance, I had thought of her as my servant, rather than the Lord’s. So I left her presence feeling very humble and thinking of these words of Jesus. “they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on."
Pray with us
Let us pray for greater willingness to serve God and our fellow men and women. Reflect on the readings we hear at mass this sunday on our spirituality website, pathways to God. Pray This Sunday >>
If you'd like to support the work of the Jesuits in Britain you can find ways to do that on this website. Support us >>