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In Memory of Fr Albert Nolan 1934 - 2020

CE5660E9 D5DC 4684 937D 46E7CC73F70F 4 5005 cAlbert Nolan was born in Cape Town, South Africa (SA), as a 4th generation of Irish descent. He joined the Dominicans in 1954. In the 1960s he taught theology at the Dominican training institution in South Africa. During the 1970s he became the National Chaplain of, what is known here as the YCS, the National Catholic Federation of Students.
From 1976 to 1984 he was Vicar-General of the Dominicans in South Africa. ‘In 1983 he was elected the Master of the Dominican Order. He, however, declined the office as it would have meant transferring to his order’s Rome headquarters, preferring to remain in South Africa during the decade of intense political and social transition ..’
He also worked for the Institute for Contextual Theology.

Through his experience he became convinced that theology must come from the grassroots rather than be academic. At one point during his ministry he had to go ‘underground’ during what is known as ‘the state of emergency’ in South Africa during both the 1960s and 1980s.

Marcus Rodgers, a member of the MCW England and National Secretary from 1978 to 1980 of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) in South Africa and National Administrator / Treasurer of MCW SA between 1987 & 1994 shares his memories of Fr Albert Nolan:

Albert was based in Springs in what used to be known as the Transvaal. He was the leader of the Dominican Order of Priests, an order very engaged in the struggle for justice in South Africa. He was very involved with the YCS (Young Christian Students) movement in South Africa. His book, "Jesus before Christianity" has inspired thousands to see Christianity as a site of struggle. To get a taste of the type of person Albert was – he and his Order chose a run-down house in Johannesburg and did it up to become their centre. Being close to ordinary people was more important for him than a building in a leafy part of the country.

I would say that Albert was the leading light in getting university students through the YCS, to get the church to reflect on its role in being a major force for change in a society so divided by apartheid in all its evil forms. The national YCW worked with the YCS in efforts to get the South African Bishops' Conference to adopt a mission for the Poor, but at the time this proved unsuccessful.

Albert was a strong proponent of Liberation Theology but his work in this field was not considered favourably in church circles in South Africa and elsewhere. He was someone very 'down to earth' and an academic who presented his work with such simplicity.

The MCW in South Africa invited Albert on an occasion to attempt to resolve some worrying issues it had faced.

As it happens, I have just started re-reading his second book "Jesus Today" Albert will sincerely be missed particularly at a time of such mayhem. I am glad though that Albert's influence on the persons in the Dominican Order has been so significant, one such person I can think of is Fr Joe Faulkner. He played a tremendous role in the trade union movement during a very harsh period, giving ordinary workers hope that their fight for workers’ rights was just and something God wanted for them. He also introduced a number of English trade unions songs into the YCW and MCW songbooks. During 1982 at a Mass to celebrate the centenary of Cardijn’s birth, he was taken to task by the South African right-wing press for a song of mine, “Werker wees Sterker” (Worker be Stronger), used during the event, but he stood his ground.

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