Archbishop James Hayes

Archbishop James Hayes

August 15, 2016

Halifax Archbishop-emeritus James Hayes, one of the last remaining Canadian participants in the Second Vatican Council, died in Halifax Aug. 2. He was 92.

Hayes attended the first session of Vatican II as the secretary of Halifax Archbishop Gerald Berry, and became a council father for the final session in 1965 when he had become an auxiliary bishop.

He was named archbishop of Halifax after Berry's death in 1967, retiring from the position in 1990. He served as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1987 to 1989.

Hayes also taught on pastoral care for the dying at the Summer School in Liturgical Studies, held for many years at Edmonton's Newman Theological College.

His funeral took place Aug. 5 at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Halifax.

Through his commitment to Christian unity, he was one of the founders of the Atlantic School of Theology that offers theological training in an ecumenical environment.

"He did something pretty radical at the time, and took a bold step for Christian unity," said Father James Mallon, a priest in the Halifax Archdiocese.

Hayes also "took a move on priestly formation," with underlying principles of a more "incarnated experience," as opposed to a more monastic, academic priestly formation, Mallon said.

After Hayes' retirement as archbishop, he worked full-time until 2012 as a palliative care chaplain at a Halifax hospital.

"He basically spent his entire time visiting the sick, the dying and doing funerals," said Mallon. "He was seen around the hospitals at all hours of the night. He never stopped."

Mallon said when Hayes was brought to the hospital the week before he died, he asked for his hospital ID. When asked what he would need it for, Hayes reportedly said, "You never know when someone might need a priest."

"In the 10 years I've known him here in Halifax, I've always found him to be a welcoming, gentle and kind man who has always been supportive of bringing the Church forward to a credible expression of the Gospel," said Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini.

When Mallon was 19, he asked to see Hayes to discuss a "troubling theological question.

"It was quite preposterous, this young guy went to see the bishop about my participation in an event not 100 per cent on board with the Catholic faith," said Mallon. "Here he was archbishop of Halifax and he made time for this 19-year-old."

Mallon added: "He had a great presence with the people, and he remembered everyone's name."