Sunday March 21, 2010, I was among those attending Archbishop (retired) Hurley’s 40th Anniversary celebration of service as a Bishop in Alaska. The overflow noon Mass was clearly an obvious display of affection for Archbishop Hurley by area Catholics and parishioners of Holy Family Parish. Before the service started, Hurley was seen slowly making his way from the front to the back of the cathedral, stopping to greet many individuals with smiles, handshakes and hugs. It was a warm sight showing his recognition of many as old friends and his devotion toward them as a caring pastor is wont to do.[img_assist|nid=150824|title=Archbishop Hurley Greeting Well Wishers Before Service|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=205]
The procession from the rear at the start of the service was regally headed up by a contingent from the Knights of Columbus in their finery. In his preliminary remarks, Hurley was very warm and welcoming, noting he had said his first Mass as Bishop in Juneau 40 years ago this day. After preliminaries he positioned himself behind the pulpit and instead of the expected homily, reminisced about his service and experience in Alaska. Part humor and part visionary, he clearly has a wonderful story to tell. His story about telling his mother he was moving to Juneau as Bishop and her reply, “Did you turn it down?” brought laughter to all. He was animated as he told of learning the human dimension of interreligious contact in the use of other churches, particularly in bush Alaska.[img_assist|nid=150825|title=Knights of Columbus Leaving Service|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=246|height=490]
Positive about the growth of the Church in Alaska he noted, “The future is ours for the taking.” He also expressed his thanks for the growth of the Archdiocese, attributing much of this to the priests and sisters here. He recounted how parish duty swaps between Lower 48 parishes and Alaska were offered but had no takers here, the priests and sisters noting they wanted to be here, having specifically left those environs to come up.
Hurley also noted the involvement and activity of the laity in the Archdiocese concluding “The biggest joy of any Bishop is the people for whom they’re working.” As noted early in his remarks, his major focus this day was to celebrate the Mass with his friends in celebration of his service. Mass was celebrated with Hurley officiating, punctuated and marred somewhat by cell phones going off here and there, despite requests from the leadership to turn them off as the service got underway earlier.[img_assist|nid=150826|title=Archbishop Hurley Leaving Service – Greeting Well Wishers|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=469]
At the conclusion of the service Fr. Francis Hung Le, the Pastor, came up to make a few remarks of welcome to all gathered, and to present several gifts to Archbishop Hurley. One was a painting of Hurley’s favorite airplane, the Mooney, flared for landing. I didn’t realize he was a flying priest until this service which he shared in a humorous moment. The other gift was a bottle of wine and a card.
This was a fitting tribute to a well-traveled Archbishop. I was recently in the Valley visiting several churches. At one church, the elders decided to hijack the service, one hour in, and did a half-hour tribute to their pastor of eleven years. They then adjourned church for a spaghetti feed. If in the same place, I think Fr. Hurley would have insisted on feeding his flock with a homily and Mass rather than receiving the adulation from any congregation. My thanks to all who made this an important moment of reflection. God bless you Archbishop Hurley.