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Prayer group leader remember as spiritual grandfather

Fr Vince Hurley

Vale: Fr Vince Hurley.

THE former Australian spiritual leader for the Pope’s personal prayer group Jesuit Father Charles Vincent Hurley has died in Brisbane, aged 85.

Between 1993 and 2013, Fr Hurley was the national director for the Apostleship of Prayer, an international prayer network that receives prayer intentions directly from the Pope.

He died of a heart attack at 9.45am on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at St Paul’s Villa, Bardon, where he had lived since June last year.

Australian Jesuits province secretary Fr Chris Horvat said Fr Hurley, who devoted 30 years to people in Queensland, would be greatly missed. 

“On December 1, the memorial of Sts Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and other martyrs of England and Wales, Vince died of a heart attack, having devoted close to 30 years of priestly ministry to the people of his home state,” he said.

Fr Horvat said Fr Hurley’s legacy would be his love of sharing his vast reading and spiritual insights with people, even continuing to give spiritual direction while in hospital for a severe stroke.

“He read voluminously and apparently had complete recall of everything he read,” Fr Horvat said.  

“His knowledge was encyclopaedic.

“Fr Hurley spent his last 10 years in Brisbane, based at Toowong until June last year, when he moved to St Paul’s Villa, Bardon.

“He was as involved as ever in the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises, even taking it overseas to Singapore, where he was a resource for the Canossian Sisters and where he had a massive stroke, from which he never fully recovered.”  

The Ipswich-born Jesuit priest was a late vocation, entering the Jesuits in his early 30s before being ordained at Holy Spirit Church, Auchenflower, on December 12, 1970, aged 40.

He was rector at the Jesuit’s study house, Campion College in Kew, and for St Leo’s College, Brisbane.

He also became chaplain to the medical Guild of St Luke and the Nurses Guild, and lectured in Spirituality at Pius X Seminary, Brisbane.

He had spent the past nine years of his life in Brisbane directing spiritual retreats and working at the Faber Ignatian Centre of Spirituality in Bardon and received a reputation for being one of the best spiritual directors in Australia.

One of his first retreatants was Brisbane mother Elizabeth Kerr, one of three lay people to receive the Ignatian Spiritual Exercise from Fr Hurley in the early 1980s.

 “We were the first lay people he had given the exercises to, at least in Queensland,” Mrs Kerr said.

“He himself said to me that he only gave the exercises to priests and religious.”

Mrs Kerr met with Fr Hurley for the spiritual exercises once a week for 35 weeks while she was pregnant with her eighth child. 

“He enjoyed it so much, the next year, he went to the Gold Coast in Southport to give the exercises to eight people on his day off,” she said.

“From then on he realised lay people were hungry for the spiritual exercises as a tool to deepen their spirituality.”

Mrs Kerr said Fr Hurley encouraged married and family life, reminding the Faber Centre of Ignatian Spirituality member it was a vocational priority.

She said before his death, Fr Hurley had tried to reunite with a sister in Redcliffe.

The brother and sister met regularly to research their family history. That gave him great joy,” Mrs Kerr said.

Brisbane man Felix Macdonald met with Fr Hurley for the weekly spiritual exercises in 2011, at the recommendation of fellow Jesuit Father Gregory Jordan, who died this year. 

“I found (Fr Hurley) to be a true Jesuit,” Mr Macdonald said.

“He worked hard to listen to me and direct me.

“He was a good listener and reasonably firm in his direction.”

Mr Macdonald said Fr Hurley gave the impression of a Jesuit who was always aware of being “a gifted man”.

Australia’s Jesuit community remembered Fr Hurley at his funeral Mass on Monday, December 7 at St Ignatius, Toowong.  

By Emilie Ng

Written by: Emilie Ng

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