Thursday, March 7, 2013

Father Harry Stocks



Father Harry Stocks, CSC passed away on Saturday, January 19, 2013 at Hospice Niagara (Canada) after a lengthy, courageous and serene struggle with cancer. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was the son of the late Andrew and Jean Hunt Stocks. After his early education, he advanced from copyboy to reporter at newspapers in Edinburgh, Golspie and Glasgow, and then immigrated to Canada in 1957, believing his future lay in print or broadcast media. After a year as the city life reporter on the Toronto Telegram, he changed course dramatically and joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in August1958, after philosophy studies at the University of Notre Dame and theology studies at Holy Cross College in Washington, DC, he was ordained priest in May 1966.

His first assignment, to the Holy Cross Missions in Bangalore, was the beginning of a life-long, passionate commitment to India and its people. He learned the Tamil language and was initiated into his option for the poor by his involvement in two large projects: a workers' centre and a housing project for the homeless. He developed a special sensitivity to people who are deaf and dedicated the next 42 years of his life to their benefit. He built a training centre for the deaf in Bangalore. Its modern equipment enabled students to get jobs especially in many public sector factories in Bangalore. He began a second such centre in Karwar.

His work with the deaf and the workers' movement led to national involvement with several organizations, other religious communities and non-Christian agencies. His work with and advocacy for the deaf extended into Asia. Because of declining health he moved back to Canada. Still he was able to serve as Chaplain to the Deaf Community in the Archdiocese of Toronto from 2005 to 2010. At the same time, from 2005 up to October 2012, Father Harry ministered to the deaf of Niagara at a monthly Mass at St. Kevin's Parish. Because of his poor health, this was not easy for him in the last several months but he carried on with what he called his sacred duty.

His energy that seemed to keep him forever mobile and his unstinting commitment to the poor, especially to the deaf in India, and the deaf he worked with in different networks throughout Asia and in Canada. Fr. Harry was well known for his inimitable Scottish humour.

Father Harry was an instrument of peace, a channel and an avenue through which God’s love and compassion flowed out to others. Essentially his life, as I knew it, was a reminder of prophets in the Old Testament who declared God’s will to the people. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Deeds of righteousness are what make a good and godly man. And these were the stuff of Father Harry’s life. His was a humble walk with God, not visible to people, even to himself. His life was a life lived with God - a life not lived to be visible, approved and applauded. It is not a subject to our pietistic judgement but thrives upon its simplicity and straightforwardness, even dispensing with the culturally prescribed norms of social behaviour. Its deceptive lack of visibility makes for depth and a hidden richness.

Father Harry died not in defeat but in victory, unafraid and in unabated trust in his Maker. He always remained calm and undismayed, never displaying anxiety or concern for himself. In his passing, he has left in me and many others around the world a legacy of compassion and care for others.

P.N.Benjamin Coordinator Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD)

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