War ‘difficult to justify’
Faith makes Fr Chris strong - author
By Marilyn Rodrigues
The story of the life and work of Salesian priest Fr Chris Riley, founder of Youth Off The Streets, is one that begged to be written.
Now it has, by Sydney-based journalist Sue Williams.
"It was difficult to do but incredibly rewarding as well," she told The Catholic Weekly. "He is an amazing man, and it is astonishing to think that one man can do so much.
"But his faith really sustains him … and makes him strong."
Mean Streets, Kind Heart: The Father Chris Riley Story, explains how Fr Chris began his mission to homeless children by riding his horse through Kings Cross.
It charts his journey to become founder and then director of the national Youth Off The Streets charity, and one of the country's most respected figures, being named NSW Australian of the Year last November.
He now runs 20 projects, including rehabilitation farms, a detox centre, schools, refuges, mentor programs and food vans.
The authorised biography also tells the stories of the kids whom Fr Chris has devoted his life to saving.
"I spent a lot of time in tears hearing kids tell their stories. It was quite draining," Sue Williams says.
"But it was heart-warming too, to hear from some kids of how they have got their first job … (or) how they have reunited with their parents and worked through some of their issues."
It was also heartening to see the admiration and respect that "such tough-looking kids" have for Fr Chris, she said.
Sue Williams has written for the Sun Herald, Melbourne's Age and the Sunday Age plus various magazines and is also the author of Peter Ryan: The Inside Story.
Former Governor-General Sir William Deane has contributed the foreword to the book.
Mean Streets, Kind Heart: The Father Chris Riley Story, published by HarperCollins, goes on sale on March 3.
It will be available from leading booksellers; rrp $29.95
A large proportion of the proceeds will be directed to Youth Off The Streets.