To the Editor:
Our Christian community has lost a great church leader this past week with the passing of Archbishop James Hayes in Halifax.
My own experience with him happened back in the mid-60s in Halifax when I was a member of a young person’s group at Saint Davids Presbyterian Church, which was a neighbourhood church to Saint Mary’s Basilica. Father James Hayes was the parish priest at the lovely basilica.
Father Hayes was a strong believer in the ecumenical movement and played a key role in its advancement. Our own youth group was invited to visit the basilica one evening by Father Hayes and he welcomed us to the basilica and invited us to ask any questions we had during and after our visit in the reception room following our tour of the basilica.
Outside of the basilica, he showed us the large letters above the basilica doors showing “One Lord,” “One Faith,” “One Baptism” with full explanation for us and he encouraged us to ask lots of questions. Father Hayes fully explained the Stations of the Cross. He showed us the altar and explained it fully for us, including its contents.
Father Hayes showed us the priests’ robes they would wear (and why) for the different religious seasons. Oh yes, our young minds asked many questions and Father Hayes answered them all with love and kindness. As a special treat for us, he had the church organist play the church pipe organ, and play he certainly did! This pipe organ was one of the finest in Atlantic Canada and left us in awe.
Father Hayes asked if any of us would like to go up to the belfry, which was far up in the church steeple. I did that steep climb, as did most of us, only to find the bell ringer was there to meet us and he donned his padded gloves and he beat the keys for the bells to toll, and toll they did! It was just beautiful, to say the least.
Father Hayes did advise us they seldom play the bells after dark, and when we got back to the reception hall they would get calls as to what church leader had passed away and sure enough, he took the calls and fully explained about the bells ringing.
It was an evening I will always cherish with great respect for Father James Hayes and how pleased we were to later hear he was raised to become the Archbishop of Halifax.
Yes, his Christian message to us of love to all people and all church denominations was all inspiring for us. His own church role in the ecumenical movement over the past 40 years, even included his lecturing at the Atlantic School of Theology and his continuing to visit the sick and dying into his 90s.
Every time I go past this fine basilica on Spring Garden Road in Halifax I think of Archbishop Hayes and do look at what it says over the doors of the basilica.
I am sure he will hear from the Master.
Well done thy good and faithful servant!
Lloyd P. MacKay
To the Editor: