Caritas Director Leonid McKay compelling and passionate tribute to Charles Miceli on today’s Sunday Times.
It is already two weeks since we unexpectedly and sadly lost one of our most loyal colleagues, a champion of social justice, and most importantly a friend.
Charles Miceli, colloquially known as Chalie, died suddenly at the age of 68. Chalie had been involved with Caritas, both as an employee and later as a devoted volunteer, for almost three decades. He recently wrote that his journey with Caritas in Malta started way back in 1991 when, as a journalist, he was covering a Caritas press conference. After the conference he had a quick chat with Mgr. Victor Grech and decided to involve himself.
I salute the memory of a gentle giant and a resilient activist who worked with and passionately loved persons experiencing substance abuse dependence within our various rehabilitation Therapeutic Communities including the Prison Inmates Programme. Chalie was a pioneer in harm reduction services in Malta, and one of the prominent figures in the development of the first ever Caritas Aftercare service. More recently he also worked with persons with emotional challenges as he set up and facilitated the weekly Emotions Anonymous self-help group held at Caritas.
Chalie’s militancy for the poor and outcasts went beyond his numerous engagements at Caritas. In his writings and social activism, Chalie’s concern extended to other vulnerable groups in particular immigrants, low-income earners, people experiencing loneliness, single-parent households, and persons in prostitution.
Chalie used to remind me how he had experienced poverty in his own childhood; an experience which guided his preferential option for the poor throughout. He worked tirelessly for those who are experiencing emerging and contemporary forms of poverty, away from the benefits of the economic prosperity. I still vividly remember his joy throughout the setting up of Dar Papa Franġisku. I equally recall his hesitation to accept serving as a board member while continuously making the point that he feels much happier working on its ‘dining table’ rather than its ‘board room’.
No wonder, again with some hesitation, that he accepted and volunteered to put on the Father Christmas costume during the first Christmas lunch for the lonely. It fitted perfectly his white beard and, more importantly, his affectionate and warm character. Further to all of this, he was an active advocate in the recent campaigns for a decent statutory minimum wage and the regularisation of the spiralling rental market.
Despite his strong militancy, Chalie was never self-righteous, bitter or holier-than-thou. He hated sin, but not sinners. He only had one ‘enemy’, the neo-liberal economic structure to which he attributed most social ills.
Chalie’s loyalty to our clients epitomised Caritas’ motto ‘on the side of people in need’. This makes him one of our leading ambassadors, leaving his mark on hundreds of people from all walks of life. Chalie never shied away from being critical in relation to Caritas’ modus operandi analysing both the potential as well as the shortcomings of the initiatives and endeavours we undertook. His criticism was loyal, constructive and inspired out of love towards Caritas, its ideals and, most importantly, our clients. His values and life represent Caritas’ ethos at its best.
While we deeply mourn his loss we also celebrate his life and repeatedly reprise verses of his favourite Beatles song Let It Be. On behalf of our Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, residents and clients I am very delighted to take the opportunity to celebrate his life and values by naming our national aftercare service premises in Mosta “Dar Chalie Miceli”.
We believe that this is one of the best ways to keep his legacy alive; an appropriate and respectful reminder of his commitment, love and care to persons in need, that will continue to give hope to the people we serve.