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Home : News : Local
4/27/2014 8:02:00 AM
His favorite movies, best memories, etc.
The new bishop answers questions
Catholic Sentinel photo by Bob Kerns
Bishop Peter Smith
Catholic Sentinel photo by Bob Kerns
Bishop Peter Smith
Smith family photo
The new bishop's parents with Archbishop Denis Hurley, a relative and hero in South Africa.
Smith family photo
The new bishop's parents with Archbishop Denis Hurley, a relative and hero in South Africa.
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Archbishop Alexander Sample and Bishop Peter Smith meet at pastoral center.
New bishop's uncle a Catholic hero in South Africa
There are statues of Archbishop Denis Hurley all over South Africa.

Considered a hero by many, the man who was the most significant Catholic leader in South Africa during the 20th Century was an uncle by marriage of Portland's new Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith.

"We just knew him as Uncle Denis," Bishop Smith says of the man who became a bishop just before the hard-line Afrikaner Nationalists came into power in 1948. He lived to see the apartheid-backing party swept out of power. Archbishop Hurley was a major voice against apartheid.

Tall and impressive, he was an eloquent speaker.  

As a young student, he was a solid supporter of the British Empire and thought Mahatma Gandhi was spoiling things by his opposition to British rule in India.
Gradually the churchman's attitudes changed as he opened himself to new ideas and admitted the inadequacies of his earlier thinking.

While studying for the priesthood in Rome, he was strongly attracted to the Church's social teaching. In his first assignment as a curate at Durban's Emmanuel Cathedral in the early 1940s, Father Hurley was excited by attending a meeting about the establishment of black trade unions. But he accepted the advice of older priests that this was not the sort of thing in which a priest should involve himself.

He kept up his interest, however, introducing a course on social justice when he was superior of a seminary.

Appointed a bishop at the young age of 31, he organized a conference on racial issues. When he was appointed Archbishop of Durban in 1951, he persuaded the nation's bishops to make their first-ever joint statement on human rights and race relations, despite strong opposition from the papal representative.

The new bishop fought a government effort to take over Church mission schools in the 1950s. After Vatican II, he sought to implement emphases on collegiality, lay participation, liturgy, catechetics, ecumenism and justice and peace. As a result of the Vatican Council, Archbishop Hurley also became more determined than ever in his opposition to apartheid. He rejected the idea of separate homelands for blacks, a position that brought him into conflict with some other bishops.

The archbishop stood up for blacks who were being forcibly removed and gave his support to the Black Consciousness movement and the Durban strikes of 1973. He also sympathized with whites who refused on conscience to serve in the South African Army. That made him unpopular with the government and many whites.

To Archbishop Hurley, apartheid was a form of organized evil, which he believed could only be overcome by organized good. He established a number of groups and increased his backing for workers' struggle for rights. He was once charged for slander against police paramilitary units but the case was dropped once prosecutors saw how formidable a foe he was.

As the 1990s came and apartheid cracked and then crumbled, Archbishop Hurley was filled with joy. He said the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa's president was a highlight of his life only behind the Second Vatican Council.

In retirement, he served as a parish priest and official at the University of Natal. He was also involved in the Sant'Egidio peace community of Rome.

He died in 2004 at age 88.  

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, himself a longtime anti-apartheid leader, called his Catholic colleague a "fearless and articulate adversary,” warm and approachable with great "sharpness of mind” and considerable ecumenical commitment.

— Source: www.archbishopdenishurley.com

Ordination to the Episcopate
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith
2 p.m., April 29
St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

My full name is:
 Peter John Leslie Smith

I was born in: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

My current home is: North Portland, Oregon

I’ve lived there for: Seven years.

What I like most about where I’m living now is: I live in community.

If I could, what I’d change about my present locale is: Continue fixing up the house where I live.

The person I most admire is:  Jesus Christ and some of the great saints and holy men and women like St Thomas More, soon to be St. John Paul, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  In terms of people outside of the Church, I would include people like Winston Churchill, William Wilberforce, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln.

I subscribe to the following magazines: I usually read them online now so I don’t have any current magazine subscriptions.  At various times in the past I subscribed to First Things, Touchstone, New Pentecost, Christianity Today, Africa Geographic, US News and World Report, Rugby Magazine, The Economist, and Super Sport South Africa.

My favorite scripture passage is: That has changed a number of times over the years.  However, one that has meant a lot to me is Colossians 1:27 where St. Paul speaks of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

The best day of my life, besides the family biggies like ordinations, marriages and births was:  It did not seem so at the time, but it was when I said yes to the Lord and entrusted my life to him in early December 1978.  That began a relationship and journey that radically changed and reshaped my life.  If that had not happened I would certainly not be where I am today.  When you say yes to the Lord and give the Holy Spirit relatively free reign in your life anything is possible.

The worst day of my life was: When my father died unexpectedly in 2012.  I was not able to get back to South Africa in time to see him before he died.

My favorite foods are: South African foods would be curry, bobotie, biltong, and good moist fruitcake.  American foods would be steak, apple or peach pie, and good cheese.  I also enjoy Italian, Mexican, and Indian food.  Unfortunately I cannot enjoy some foods like I used to due to acid reflux and a reaction to shellfish. 

My favorite flavor of ice cream is: French Vanilla or Spumoni

My favorite clothes to wear are: Not considering clerical garb, it would probably be sandals, shorts, and open necked shirt of some kind when I am back in South Africa during the warmer weather.

My favorite childhood memory is: I have a lot of them so here are a few

  1. Christmas dinner with all the extended family and in-laws.
  2. Being on holiday at the beach or game reserves with my family.
  3. Finally being the top student in my grade school after a lot of hard work and studying.
  4. Working with my dad on projects around the house or in the yard.
  5. Sunday morning breakfast after coming home from Mass.
  6. My mother reading me Bible stories at bedtime when I was a little boy.

My favorite entertainment activities are: Reading and learning.  As a child I was a voracious reader, usually of non-fiction.  Now I can do that on the web.  It is like having a library at your fingertips.  I also enjoy listening to music (I have very eclectic musical tastes as my confreres will tell you), and enjoying humor and comedy.  In South Africa I enjoy bird watching and going to game reserves and nature reserves.  Finally I enjoy watching sports on TV and live games.  Occasionally I am fortunate enough to get to go to a big game or sports event. 

My favorite sports, for either watching or participating, are:  Rugby, cricket, soccer, Formula One motor racing, basketball (college and NBA), and American football (college and NFL). Like most South Africans I am a bit of a sports nut.

The books I’ve read most recently are:  In the past year in no particular order or preference 

1.  Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis

2.  Hope for the Workplace by Bill Dalgetty

3.   Siege: Malta 1940-1943 by Ernle Bradford

4.  Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado

5.  Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus by Pope Francis (still reading it)

6.  Resist the Devil by Charles Harris C.S.C.

7.  Jesus Lives Today by Emiliano Tardiff

8.   Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert by Scott Adams (still working my way through it)

9.   As Far as my Feet will Carry Me by Josef Bauer

The top movies on my list are: I am not a big movie buff but here are some I do like a lot:

  1. A Man for all Seasons
  2. Shawshank Redemption
  3. The Scarlet and the Black
  4. Les Miserables
  5. Cinderella Man
  6. To End all Wars
  7. The Pursuit of Happyness
  8. Zulu
  9. Alive

 The best advice I ever received was: I don’t know that there is one piece of advice that stands out above the rest but here are some:

  1. Pray every day.
  2. There but for the grace of God go I (from my Father).
  3. Do your best and then put your trust in the Lord (from my mother).
  4. Gratitude is contagious and life giving.
  5. Have a sense of humor about yourself and about life.
  6. Christ and you are an overwhelming majority.

My dream job would be:  That has changed quite a few times over the years.  Perhaps to run an evangelistic retreat center and outreach and also one that serves the poor, along with having all the resources necessary to do so.

If I could change one thing about myself it would be: To worry less about things and to have more of a serene trust in God.

I try very hard to hide the fact that:  I am actually something of an introvert, though I normally come across as an extrovert.

The one thing I’d still like to try is:  To visit Scotland where some of my early ancestors originally came from hundreds of years ago.   My family has been in South Africa from the fifth generation on my father’s side and the 11th generation on my mother’s side. My middle name Leslie comes from the association with the Leslie clan in Scotland.  They married into the Irish side and so became Catholic

Three wishes I’d like to have granted are:

1.    That everyone would come to know the Lord in a deep personal friendship and that their lives would be transformed for the better and filled with his mercy and peace.

2.    That marriages and family life would be strengthened and enriched, especially with God’s presence.  Also that singles would find real purpose in their lives in Christ.

3.    For all Catholics to reflect Christ and their faith as fully as possible in every sphere of their lives, work, families, and other pursuits.

The best decision I ever made was: To say yes to the Lord and entrust my life and future to him.  It has taken me places and directions I never would ever have dreamed would happen to me.  It has also brought me into a wonderful network of friends and relationships in Christ.

The worst decision I ever made was: To end a good friendship over what I was certain were deception and maliciousness.  I was wrong.  It was a serious misunderstanding.  Jumping to conclusions and making rash judgments ended something good.  I subsequently apologized and asked for forgiveness but things have never been the same since.  I regret that.

If I could write one sentence for my tombstone, it would say:  Assuming that it would be true for me, it would be a conflation from Jesus words in the scriptures and read something like “Well done good and faithful servant and friend.”  The challenge and test is for me to live a life in Christ that makes that true.

Cats or dogs?  Dogs, without a doubt. (For the cat lovers my family almost always had both as pets when I was a child.)


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