Archbishop Emeritus Francis T. Hurley passed away less than a week ago. Here at Catholic Social Services, knowing he is in a better place, we are comforted and still we are saddened by both our loss and the loss of this community. Archbishop's deep compassion for the poor and vulnerable had a substantial impact on shaping Catholic Social Services over the years. His personal charm, warmth, pragmatism and humor will be missed greatly. He has left an indelible mark on all of Anchorage.
Catholic Social Services' strong working partnership with the state and federal government can be traced back to the leadership of Hurley.
Before becoming Archbishop of Anchorage (1976-2002) and the Bishop of Juneau (1970-1976), Hurley served with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. He spent 13 years (1957-1970) working with four different administrations -- those of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
The years in D.C. shaped Hurley's philosophy on the importance of working collaboratively with state and federal officials. He personally shared with CSS leadership his thinking on working together: "Politicians are very pragmatic, they have a vested interest and so does the Catholic Church. It is important to find ways to work together that are in the best interest of both and ultimately the people." He lived that philosophy as he worked with both the state and local government to bring social services throughout this great state.
While in Washington, Hurley worked closely with Daniel Patrick Moynihan (President Johnson's assistant secretary of Labor and later a U.S. senator representing New York) in the Johnson Administration to help craft the War on Poverty legislation. He is credited with the line in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that reads "... to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity." The act helped Catholic social service programs throughout the nation access funding to help those most vulnerable. Archbishop Hurley was present on Aug. 20, 1964, the day President Johnson signed the bill in the Rose Garden and was presented one of the pens that the president used to sign the bill.
Addressing issues of poverty and dignity for all were a hallmark of the archbishop's work. Throughout his time in Alaska, first in Juneau and then in Anchorage, he honed his legislative and public relations skills to further the mission of the social service arm of the Catholic church. In Juneau, he was instrumental in the creation of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, an organization whose mission is to provide Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing.
Under his leadership, the Archdiocese of Anchorage supported the expansion of Catholic Social Services to reach out to the poor and vulnerable. Catholic Social Services grew to meet the unmet needs of our most vulnerable through Brother Francis Shelter, Clare House, Special Needs Services, McAuley Manor, Charlie Elder House and Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services (previously known as Immigration Services).
He was personally vested in this service work, and was particularly concerned with the plight of those experiencing homelessness. His passion was the driving force behind the creation of Brother Francis Shelter. His dedication to people in homelessness was easily seen in the countless acts that he performed daily. He was known to regularly eat at soup kitchens, visiting with the regulars there. There are countless stories of him befriending the guests or even just offering a ride to someone in need or a cup of coffee and a friendly word.
Hurley believed that with the right guidance, the community would rise up and support service for those in need. At Catholic Social Services, we strive to be worthy of that community support. We work to offer dignity and decency to all people while providing strong service to the community. We are fortunate to have expert individuals bringing our services to the community and we are blessed by having a community that in turn demonstrates their generosity and dedication again and again through donations and volunteer hours.
Hurley will be dearly missed by all of Alaska. We will miss him at Catholic Social Services for the many practical lessons he taught us and his true commitment to all of God's people. We will work to carry the mantle of service he inspired forward, and the dedication to the dignity of every individual we serve.
Lisa D.H. Aquino is executive director of Catholic Social Services.
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