Commemorative tree for Archbishop Denis Hurley 1915-2004

Bishop Dowling, Sr Marie-Henry Keane at tree planting ceremony

Bishop Dowling, Sr Marie-Henry Keane at tree planting ceremony

Sr Marie-Henry Keane OP of the Newcastle Dominicans at Rosary Priory north of London, was very struck when she heard that Archbishop Denis Hurley’s last words were: “Isn’t it wonderful that we have all these beautiful trees and flowers?” They were said as he was being driven home after concelebrating the golden jubilee Mass of Fatima Convent, Durban North on 13 February 2004, and he died suddenly soon afterwards.

A colleague of the famous anti-apartheid campaigner, who often said that social justice was integral to his faith, Sr Marie-Henry thought it would be a good idea to plant a commemorative tree at her priory just north of London in Bushey, Hertfordshire.

“If any tree were to symbolise Archbishop Hurley it must be an oak tree”, she said, so she gathered up some acorns from South Africa but they didn’t take. Then she tried again when she found a seedling in the New Forest, England, five years ago. This time the sapling took!

When Bishop Kevin Dowling CSsR, a second cousin once removed of Archbishop Hurley, was in London for the recent launch of the Hurley biography Guardian of the Light, she invited him to plant the tree. The bishop of South Africa’s Rustenburg Diocese, himself an energetic promoter of justice and peace, did just that. He remarked that “this oak tree will take 200 years to reach maturity and I hope Archbishop Hurley will still be remembered as an heroic churchman in the face of injustice and racism”.

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