PEOPLE will gather next week to remember a man who was the driving force in creating a popular North-East Catholic retreat.

Friar Colum Devine, a member of the Passionists order, played a major role in turning derelict stables and coach house at Minsteracres Hall, in Northumberland, into the Retreat Centre.

His efforts were praised by church leaders yesterday. Father Joseph Park, of St Joseph's RC Church, Stanley, said: "The work Colum did has made the retreat the successful place that it is.

"Building it, gave men in particular an opportunity to use their skills in the expansion of their faith.

"Men who went there still talk of their sense of achievement and that was down to Friar Colum's inspiration."

The Passionists bought Minsteracres Hall from the Silvertop family in 1949 and transformed it into a monastery.

Most of their funds were taken up with dealing with dry rot and replacing the roof of the 40-room building.

Friar Colum was left with the task of converting the stables and coach house into the retreat and he turned to the Catholic community for help.

Every Saturday morning for more than ten years, a Minsteracres van would collect men at St Patrick's Church, in Consett, who spearheaded the construction work.

Friar Colum raised all the cash for the materials needed with garden parties.

The Retreat House was blessed and opened in September 1967. Friar Colum later moved to Highgate, London, where he died aged 73. He was buried in Finchley.

A memorial service to mark his life and work will take place in Minsteracres a week tomorrow, at 7.30pm.