Thursday, November 05, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Another Great Redemptorist

Beloved Redemptorist
Father Joseph Tracy Hurley
is Buried at Mt. St. Alphonsus

This year sixteen Redemptorist priests of the Baltimore Province (most of northeastern US, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands) have died. Many of them had their funerals here at the Mount just next door to our monastery. Most, if not all, are well-known to our community. For the first 25 years of this foundation the Mount was a major seminary. The sisters had ample opportunity to get to know the priests who served on the staff and were its professors. They also encouraged and supported the seminarians as they made their way to ordination. So when the Redemptorists bury one of their confreres, we too mourn the loss of a friend. That was particularly the case today. What follows is excerpted from his obituary notice.

Father Joseph T. Hurley, C.Ss.R. the associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church Roman in Seaford, Delaware, died suddenly on Friday, Oct. 30. He was born in 1928, in Fall River, MA. His parents were the Hon. Joseph L. Hurley, former lieutenant governor of the State of Massachusetts and later Superior Court justice, and his mother Celeste (Tracy) Hurley. He is survived by his brothers, John and William. Father Hurley attended Monsignor Coyle High School in Taunton, MA. He was a student at Harvard University when he felt the call to priesthood. He attended the Redemptorists seminaries of Saint Mary's College in North East, PA, and theological studies at Mt. St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY. Father Hurley professed his first vows as a Redemptorist 60 years ago. He was ordained a priest on June 20, 1954, by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York at Mt. St. Alphonsus. He was assigned to the parish of Saint Mary s in Annapolis, MD. The parish was very large. He was in charge of a community that eventually grew into an independent parish in Cape Saint Claire, Anne Arundel County, MD. He worked as an assistant to the Novice Master for a brief time. He then did graduate school studies at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., earning a master s degree in sociology. Father Hurley spent many years of his life in the formation of future Redemptorist priests, teaching in the High School seminary. He was the president and rector of Saint Alphonsus College, Suffield, CT. He also was the Novice Master for the Interprovincial Novitiate in Glenview, Ill. for twelve years. Another important focus of his ministry was service as Vicar and then as Provincial of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists. He guided the Province that embraced, at that time, the entire east coast of the United States and extensive missionary work in Brazil, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States Virgin Islands. He then returned to parish ministry as the pastor of Saint Patrick's Church in Enfield, CT for six years.  In Our Lady of Lourdes parish, h was mentor to those entering the Church through the  Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He worked very closely with the extraordinary ministers of Communion in their pastoral care of the sick at Nanticoke Hospital and those who were homebound. His kindness and care of the sick was extraordinary. He was chaplain of the Legion of Mary. Father Hurley delighted in offering short courses in Scripture on different themes. The courses would run six weeks, offering a session in the morning for the retired and one in the evening for working people. He used the Year of Saint Paul to examine Paul s writings. Father Hurley was preparing classes for an examination of the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew in preparation for the great feast of Christmas, when he died suddenly.

I have come to admire the Redemptorists so much in my 20 years of association with them. My affection and my respect grows constantly. So many of them model the devotion to the poor and most abandoned which is at the center of their charism. And they model devotion to vocation, to the congregation as a whole and to the pursuit of joyful and compassionate living within community. And none of it is easy.

I got to know Fr. Hurley a bit when he was serving as Novice Master, an ideal man for the job. He taught by his very person what is was to be priest and Redemptorist. But today I learned a lot more.

His family was very active in the Democratic Party in Massachusetts. His father served as Mayor of Fall River, Lieutenant Governor under the famous James Michael Curley in the 1930s, and later as a State Superior Court Judge. Following the Coconut Grove nightclub fire in Boston in 1942 in which almost 500 people died, he sat on the bench for the trial of those whose negligence caused so many deaths. As a son of this family young Joseph went to Harvard where, as a freshman he confided his desire for the priesthood to a priest on campus. The priest promptly encouraged him to head for the Jesuits. But quietly Joe quietly answered, "I wasn't thinking so much of teaching but about missionary work." The priest responded, "Then you just have to go up to Mission Church and talk to the Redemptorists." Ironically Fr. Hurley never got to be a missionary. In one way or another he taught most of his life or served in vital administrative positions during challenging times.

Today 36 Redemptorists, led by Provincial Vicar, Fr. Edmund Faliskie, celebrated Fr. Hurley's funeral Mass. It took place under the beautiful stained glass dome featured here on November 1, All Saints Day. During the Mass, on the walk to and from the cemetery, during the luncheon that followed we heard lots of stories about the gentle, contemplative, brilliant, wise and steady Joe Hurley. I learned that he liked to tell the story of how it was the custom in his day to have a reception at the family home of a newly ordained priests following his first Mass in his home parish. Imbedded as his family was in Massachusetts politics many Irish politicos attended. Fr. Joe reported that once James Michael Curley, legendary Mayor of Boston, arrived no one gave another thought to the newly ordained young priest in their midst..

The Provincial of the Baltimore Province regreted being unable to attend the Mass. He is in Rome at the Redemptorist General Chapter (more news about that later). He sent a moving letter in which he described Joseph Hurley as the consumate gentle-man.

A long time friend, a man named Mark, told me the story of how Fr. Joe officiated at his brother's wedding and within a year also officiated at his parents' funerals. All the while Mark was in the grip of drug and alcohol addiction. Fr. Joe supported him through is first futile attempts to regain sobriety. Today he reported, with great gratitude for the constant friendship of Fr. Joe, 20 years of sobriety.

We have lost too many this year. How many Harvard freshmen do you know who would leave those hallowed halls today to pursue the vowed life and priestly ordination?  Please pray that more will present themselves. Do you know a young man who has what it takes? Why not tell him and ask if he has ever considered it?


Annette said...

Dear Sr. Hildegard,
My condolences. One of our Marines from H&HS sent a letter about a month ago to St. Michael's here on base telling us all that he is becoming a priest now that he's out of the Corps. We're all very happy for him. Maybe that will give a smile to you today :)

Most Respectfully,


Sr. Hildegard said...

Great news, Annette. I will be publishing a prayer for vocations ASAP.