Biography invites love of neighbours

 

The Urban Saint: The Harry Lehotsky Story
Paul H. Boge

Horizon Press, 2009
340 pages

 

 
Engineer Paul Boge’s latest literary effort, The Urban Saint, is a biography of Winnipeg legend Harry Lehotsky. Author of two works of fiction, a biography of a Kenyan street children’s rescue ministry founder, and a full-length feature film, Boge leapt at the invitation to write the life story of minister, activist, inner city resident, community organizer, father, husband, and friend Harry Lehotsky.

Anyone involved in the workings of Winnipeg’s West End neighbourhood knows of the North American Baptist pastor, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. Though Boge, a member of North Kildonan MB Church, never met Lehotsky personally, he knew the pastor’s reputation as “a man of action,” and wanted to explore what made this man tick.

Boge talked to Lehotsky’s wife and children, to people from the neighbourhood whose lives were touched by Lehotsky, and to politicians and journalists who were often on the receiving end of Lehotsky’s passionate concern for the marginalized in his neighbourhood. After collecting these hours of interviews in Winnipeg, Boge wrote the book evenings and weekends while working on an engineering project in northern Manitoba.

What he found was a man who had “a brash ability to confront conflict,” a man who “made sense to people” on both ends of political and economic spectrums, a man who was convicted to love others more than he loved himself. “If that’s not a message for our culture, I don’t know what is,” Boge said at a book signing.

The book reads like a novel, with lots of action, rich description, and interesting dialogue. It takes a chronological approach to Lehotsky’s story, from the drug-addicted teenager on the streets of New York City to the pastor and friend to all in an inner-city Winnipeg neighbourhood. Boge hopes this book will encourage at least one person to change his or her life around.

—Karla Braun

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