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Care, Education, Community

“I have come that you may have life: life in all its fullness.” John 10:10

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Reflection from co-workers

Paddy Meskin is the National President of the SA Chapter of the World Conference on Religions for Peace. In this capacity she had many dealings with Archbishop Hurley especially in the last ten or so years of his life. She reflects on his highly ecumenical spirit.




Sister Margaret Kelly OP is an Assistant General of the Cabra Dominican congregation, whose headquarters are in Dublin. She headed the Justice and Peace Commission of the SACBC at the time of South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994 and it was in this role that she worked closely with Archbishop Hurley who chaired the commission at that time. This interview is rich in recollections: about the archbishop's love of debate and intellectual confrontation, and yet his tranquillity and calm in difficult situations; his support for a wide range of justice issues including the ordination of women; her visit to Robben Island with him many years after he lived there when his father was lighthouse keeper there; Pope John Paul II's high regard for him.

Rob Lambert recounts how Archbishop Hurley became involved in actively supporting trade unions for black workers. He first met the archbishop in the late 1960s as national organiser of the Young Christian Workers (YCW). He gives a fascinating account of how he liaised closely between the archbishop and the unions, beginning in the early 1970s. Here you will find details of the practical support Hurley gave to the unions and how he made worker struggles a key issue on the bishops'agenda, especially through study days with trade unionists, through the Joseph the Worker Fund which assisted victimised workers, through the opening of church venues for worker meetings and through providing farm land for the dismissed Sarmcol workers at Howick. Lambert vividly captures Hurley's excitement about the central role of workers in bringing non-violent change to South Africa.

Reverend Charles Yeats is an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Durham who works to promote Christian social responsibility among members of the business community in the United Kingdom, especially in relation to South Africa. In this interview he explains how his Presbyterian headmaster at Hilton College, Raymond Slater, encouraged him to meet Archbishop Hurley to discuss his dilemmas in conscience about serving in the SA Defence Force during the time of apartheid. "I was emboldened by the sense that this great Christian figure was with me". As a result of Hurley counseling him, he requested the archbishop to be one of his witnesses for the defence, together with Archbishop Philip Russell when he was tried for refusing to do military service in the apartheid army. He describes the archbishop's testimony in his court martial, and how he stayed an extra day at the court martial to give encouragement to Yeats on the day when sentence would be passed.


Brian Currin was legal adviser to the SA Catholic Bishops' Conference during archbishop Hurley's second presidency (1981 - 1987) and in this capacity was the instructing attorney for the Namibia case in 1985 in which the archbishop was charged with making false allegations about the Koevoet (crowbar) counter-insurgency unit. Much of this interview is devoted to Currin's experience of working with Hurley as an accused person. The charges were, however, withdrawn just days before the trial was due to start. Currin also had much interaction with the archbishop about the detention of Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa. He speaks with admiration about Hurley's bold appointment of Mkhatshwa as Secretary-General at time when Mkhatshwa was banned.

Elizabeth Mkame (former Diakonia Council of Churches' staff member)

I first met Archbishop Hurley in 1948 when he presided over my confirmation ceremony at St Mary's Catholic Church in Malvern. He had a strong presence, tall and seemingly overbearing; but when he blessed me, I remember his hands were a little cold but gentle and soft. It was then one year since his ordination as Vicar Apostolic of Natal. I was a very young and impressionable girl and remember the pride and excitement that went through our church at hosting him: the youngest Catholic bishop in the world. As I grew up and got to understand better his valuable and hard work, I realised the significance of that first encounter.

I was again brought into direct contact with him in 1976, when I started working for Diakonia, his visionary ecumenical organisation. He established Diakonia with other church leaders to work for social justice and to serve the community. He challenged us as the small team that made up the organization then - and also me personally - to work locally, but impact on a wider scale. Diakonia was never to benefit one personally but to support the community at large. He strongly believed that the Church should serve more than the spiritual needs of people, it needed also to ensure their socio-economic environment was viable. In those days, that was a highly political statement. And though I was not that politically inclined, I easily understood what he meant and worked relentlessly to ensure that his vision, through Diakonia, was realised. And that is how eventually I was able, through Diakonia and His Grace's guidance, to establish 14 community resource centres, in the Durban area.

"A couple of years after I joined the Catholic Women's League (CWL) in the late 1970s, His Grace challenged us to raise R125,000 towards renovations at Emmanuel Cathedral - an enormous amount of money, in those days, by any standards, but we managed in less than 12 months. The bishop had faith and trust in us and we did not fail.

Through Diakonia and active service in the Church, I was appointed a representative of the Vatican on a committee linking the Catholic Church with the World Council of Churches for discussions on church unity. After a meeting in the Vatican in 2001 we were invited for dinner by Pope John Paul II in his own residence. When I was introduced to him and he heard I came from South Africa, he excitedly asked about "Hurley? Is he still alive? Is he fine?" and with warmth, love and admiration asked that I "please send [my] hearty greetings" to him. My understanding was that the Holy Father had first met and been highly impressed by Archbishop Hurley during Vatican II in the early 1960s as a young bishop from Poland.

In my many contacts with Archbishop Hurley, I learnt there is no challenge insurmountable and the greatest way to serve God is to serve the community with humility and justice. I will always cherish my association with the archbishop. He was such a wonderful person, who so much cared for and respected the greater humanity.

Sr. Isentraud Rauscher of the Nardini Sisters at Maria Ratschitz

I would like to share a small incident with you which took place at Maria Ratschitz in the year 2002 when Archbishop Hurley was here to celebrate holy mass for the community of Limehill who had been forcefully removed from Maria Ratschitz in 1967-1968. As said above, in 2002 those people came to Maria Ratschitz to visit the graves of their relatives and have a Eucharistic celebration together with Archbishop Hurley. As the Archbishop with his driver and a few ladies arrived an hour before the start of holy mass, I offered them some refreshments. We chatted together about various things and from our conversation I realised that the Archbishop no longer recognised me. His eyesight was by then very bad and we had not met each other for quite a time,. So I asked him whether he remembered me and the days when I was in trouble with the then government for opening our school to all races long before this was really allowed and how he (the Archbishop) had to intervene to keep me out of jail.

Archbishop Hurley listened attentively to my story. Then, without saying a word, he got up from his chair, walked towards me and gave me a big hug. This episode of his intervening for me had happened 25 years before and he was still, after all this time, expressing his gratitude in such a beautiful way for what I had done. I was really touched by his kind gesture which was once again an expression of his great humanity. For me personally it was also his last farewell hug as Archbishop Hurley passed away about a year later. May he rest in God's loving embrace.

John Kearney:

In November 1964 Archbishop Hurley, who was attending Vatican Council 11, invited several young South Africans living in Rome at the time, to join him for a restaurant supper. Paddy Akal, then studying for the priesthood, and myself, teaching at the Via Lucullo English School, were amongst the group. We enjoyed the Italian music of the in-house band but eventually the Archbishop, in patriotic mood, asked them to play "Sarie Marais". Without the slightest hesitation, and with great gusto, the band proceeded to play "Lilli Marlene"! Archbishop Hurley showed not the slightest sign of disappointment or annoyance, but thanked them profusely and led us in a round of hearty applause. What a magnanimous gesture!

Also in 1959 [I don't remember the date] a conference concerning the education of the laity was held in the Cathedral Social Centre in Durban. As I was chairperson the Pietermaritzburg SCU, our chaplain, Fr Gerald O'Hara OMI, was keen that I should attend. To make this possible he brought me to down to Durban on the back of his rather dilapidated motorbicycle! As it happened, I was appointed spokesperson for one of the discussion groups, and accordingly had to give a report-back at the conclusion of the conference. My group had felt strongly that a re-education of the clergy was perhaps of even more importance and, as a zealous young critic, I highlighted this point in my report-back. My former parish priest, Fr Angus McKinnon OMI, lost no time afterwards in expressing his anger that such a view had even been countenanced, let alone given such prominence by one of his former parishioners! Apart from a vigorous verbal attack on me, his displeasure also took the form of a kind of mock throttling. Great was my delight and relief therefore to have Archbishop Hurley come up to us to act as my protector and try to calm his fellow clergyman down, "Now, Now, Fr MacKinnon..."!

In my first three years of high-school teaching (1960 to 1962) I attended regular meetings of the Kolbe Society together with my friends, David, Laura and Marian Naidoo. These were held at Archbishop Hurley's house, first in Essenwood (?) Road, and later Innes Road. He was a most courteous and welcoming host, always enabling us (all rather shy and nervous, especially at first) to feel that our presence was as important as that of anyone else in this gathering of esteemed Catholic intellectuals.

Sr Sue Rakoczy IHM
is on the staff of St Joseph's Theological Institute, Cedara where she teaches spirituality and directs the post-graduate programme. She is the author of 'In Her Name: Women Doing Theology' (Cluster Publications 2004) and 'Great Mystics and Social Justice: Walking on the Two Feet of Love' (Paulist Press, 2006) together with many articles in the areas of spirituality, feminist theology and ecological issues.

I arrived in South Africa in October 1989 and soon after went to Durban to introduce myself to the Archbishop. He was very gracious and welcomed me to the Archdiocese. During our short visit he told a number of stories about Vatican II and I was so grateful to hear about the Council from a bishop who had made so many important contributions to it. During the years I knew him, I heard many of the stories over again, but they always sounded new and fresh.

In April 1990, Annette St Amour IHM and I moved into a small house on the parish property in the township of Mpophomeni near Howick. The blessing of the house was scheduled for a Sunday when the President of the IHM congregation, Dorothy McDaniel IHM, was visiting from the United States.

Arch Hurley presided at the house blessing. Unfortunately, Sr Dorothy was ill that day and could not receive the blanket that the parish community presented to her. I heard later that when Arch Hurley visited her in the parish house in Howick, he danced into her bedroom wearing the blanket!

The last time I met Arch Hurley was in early December 2003 at a social function in Durban. At one point during the meal, I joined a group in conversation with the Archbishop. Someone asked him if the Church would ever ordain women. He said, 'Yes, it will come. We must be patient. But it will come.'

So I suggest that together with St Therese of Lisieux who is the patroness of the women's ordination movement in the Catholic Church (She wanted to be priest and was happy to die at 24 of TB because she would have been unhappy to grow older and not be a priest), Archbishop Hurley be considered the co-patron of this movement.


Prof Colin Gardner
was for many years professor of English at the Pietermaritzburg campus of what was then the University of Natal. He was also involved in a number of anti-apartheid organisations and after his retirement from the university he was an ANC municipal councillor and Speaker of the Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) Municipality from December 2000 to March 2006. He also chaired PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action).

Alex Campbell
was bounced as a baby on Denis Hurley's knee when Father Hurley was a young curate at Emmanuel Cathedral in the early 1940s. As a member of the St. John's Ambulance Brigade he was part of the cadet guard of honor that welcomed the newly- appointed Archbishop back to Durban at the Stamford Hill aerodrome in January 1951. Eighteen years later the Archbishop ordained Alex, by then an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, to the priesthood at Assumption Parish in Durban on June 25, 1969. After eight years of ministry, Alex applied for and was granted laicization by Pope Paul VI in 1977. He emigrated to Canada where he married Marlene and joined her family of five adolescent children. Alex initiated the process whereby the Archbishop received an honorary doctorate from St. Paul University, Ottawa, where Alex also taught in the faculty of theology.