Ray Scott (1930 – 2009)

Reprinted from The Common Good, no 50, Spring 2009

Jim Consedine

One of the Catholic Worker’s most active supporters, Father Ray Scott, died in May from cancer. He was 79. Ray had been part of our movement virtually from its founding in 1989 and often presided over our liturgies in the intervening years.

A teenager during the War years and a teacher after them, Ray had a broad knowledge of life and the world through which he travelled in the 1950s. During this time he taught in the UK, Canada and Australia among other places spending some years on the road and seeing the world. He returned to New Zealand. He joined the seminary as a ‘late’ vocation and was ordained by Bishop Brian Ashby for the Christchurch diocese in 1971. His first appointment was to Sacred Heart parish in Addington, where, among many other positive things, he distinguished himself by giving away all the parish funds to the poor while the parish priest was on sabbatical in Ireland. The latter was not amused!

Ray always had a great love of the poor. And he had a heart for justice. The Vatican II documents on the Church in the Modern World and the Laity were central to his theology. Theologically equipped that he was, his life was basically founded on Sacred Scripture – he loved the scriptures. He studied them at every opportunity and was a ready teacher of them whenever he could.

When charismatic renewal appeared in the 1970s, Ray became a devotee of the teachings. He was a great friend of the immortal Fr Ces Dennehy, who had such a huge impact on the Christchurch diocese through the charismatic renewal movement during those years. Ray became his faithful acolyte and they made a formidable team. His parish appointments at the time included Holy Cross Chapel in central Christchurch and St Anne’s, Woolston.

Ray was a committed social justice advocate. In the turbulent decade of the 1970s, he was a frequent presence on picket lines and protests involving issues around racism, apartheid and the Springbok tours, imprisonment, militarism and poverty. He was busier than most in 1981 when the Springboks toured. He certainly looked a sight to behold when his five feet nothing tubby frame, dressed in helmet, shorts and sandals, took on the might of the pro-tour forces – week after week. Marching with Ray was always a treat as he joked his way along the roads and footpaths, always with a quick comment and a wide smile. He saw this commitment simply as an act of solidarity with deprived people in South Africa and a logical expression of his faith.

Like many others, the social upheaval of the time left Ray wondering about his future. He took leave of the diocese in 1982 and later teamed up with and married Marie Venning, another social justice activist. One of my many memories is of Ray and Marie arriving together at various pickets and demonstrations and taking up their positions in the front line. About this time both were part of the Ploughshares movement which met weekly on a Friday evening to vigil at the US Military base at Harewood in solidarity with Ploughshares activists in the US who were doing prison time for their disarmament actions. Members also frequently picketed the remand prison at Addington, calling for its closure. This was eventually achieved in the mid 1990s.

When the YCW and Ploughshares movements evolved into the Catholic Worker in 1989, Ray became one of its principal resource people. He was readily available to help out on any action required: be it standing on a picket line, mailing out The Common Good, helping with the bread run, running a group. He was generous with his time and energy. For some years, he was a regular attendee at the CW’s Wednesday night liturgies held in their houses in Addington

Ray’s pacifist stance and belief in simple lifestyle also fitted well with the CW. In the 1990s he conducted a weekly scripture study at Cardijn House he called Ray’s Ramblings. Those who attended founded in them real insight to an understanding of the Word. His last appearance at Suzanne Aubert CW was for the New Year’s Eve celebration a few months ago. Clearly a dying man, he wanted to enter what he knew was his last year of life among the poor with whom he had shared so much in life.

When his marriage failed in 1997, Ray took time out to consider his future. He decided after some years to return to the official priesthood. In this he was encouraged by many of his activist friends, myself included, who sensed in him qualities which could best be expressed by him resuming such a vocation. He was always very grateful to Bishop Peter Cullinane of Palmerston North for offering him the opportunity to return to active ministry, which he did in 2004. His questioning mind remained as active as ever, and it was in this resumed role as pastoral minister in Manaia, Hastings and Napier that he felt the best of his talents could be exercised. A man deeply versed in history, poetry, scripture, theology and literature, he never regretted this decision and found in his final years a sense of fulfillment and peace through pastoral work.

After he died, it was our privilege to bring his body back to Suzanne Aubert CW House for a wake on the eve of his funeral, when many of us gathered to celebrate his life, retell the stories and pray for his happy repose. We then escorted him to the church in Addington.

His funeral services there and later in Temuka where he was buried were each attended by several hundred people from all walks of life who recognized in him a quality of goodness that made him special. This cheerful character will be missed by many. May he rest in peace.

LIFE Advent 2002

crystal clear

7.30am september sunday

yellow pine sperm

smearing gutters

awash down gurgling

street sumps

spores a billion billion

wantonly scattered

each

a potential lifebearer

alone

out poking from green

corrugated fence

one – one small yellow

daffodil

astruggle to gain space

space to seek life-giving

sun stare

dragging out of dark fucund

earth

pre-coded messages to build

leaf, stem, then

yellow glory crown

tight pressed against

a forgotten wall.

Spring Advent 2003

fog cold dark days

the spirit pines

but slow grasps the

need to pause

gather oneself

survey the mess to

wait

then

sunbright blue days

a million million buds and

blooms swell/burst the

temptation to sing/dance

hovers on the edge of

consciousness

the wheel of mystery

turns

turns

—Ray Scott

Comments are closed.