OBITUARY: by Simon McCaffreyNews Weekly
Compassionate defender of life: Kathleen Harrigan (1921-2013)
, August 31, 2013
Kathleen May Monica Harrigan. Born May 6, 1921. Died August 8, 2013.
While Mrs Kath Harrigan was the only Australian Papal Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great, she remained at heart a loved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and treasured friend to so many.
Kathleen M.M. Harrigan (1921-2013)
Kath’s generosity of spirit and inexhaustible energy and pragmatism were continually at the service of her family, her community and anyone in need. For many years she was honoured as the mother of the pro-life family.
As the longest serving secretary of NSW Right to Life, she fought tirelessly to defend life from its conception to natural death. This defence of life was not solely cerebral and material; Kath’s vocation spoke heart to heart.
Kath would readily and willingly enter into communion with despairing women, burdened by the prospect of an unexpected pregnancy for which there appeared no respite other than an abortion. Kath would enter into a mutual trust with a distraught woman in this situation, offering her own vulnerable self in order to lighten the load.
Love calls forth love, and the woman’s heart becomes open to the love of her child. Kath Harrigan’s example motivated a generation of pregnancy help counsellors. Her generous gift of love provided witness for a mother’s selfless and unconditional love for her child.
While Kath would readily cry over the unhappy fate which abortion imposes on the life of an unborn child, she would just as readily share in the palpable loneliness of women who were themselves the victims of abortion.
Kath understood the profound distress and utter sense of vulnerability which an unexpected pregnancy can induce. By sharing their vulnerability with her own, she was able to generate enormous healing.
With the assistance of other committed pro-lifers, Kath oversaw the training of hundreds of pregnancy counsellors. She realised this vocation was physically demanding and emotionally draining. She taught them all to judge little, heal much and understand more fully.
Any occasional episodes of despondency would be met with the stirring words of God to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer. 1:5).
As a result of her example, pregnancy counsellors across Australia continue to help mothers to give life to their children.
The child experiences its first sense of worth when it gazes into its mother’s eyes. In time, the child gives new life to the mother as she discovers the depth of her own beauty and generosity through the gift of life to her child in the most difficult of circumstances.
Kath realised that pregnancy counsellors can never impose themselves on the distraught woman seeking an abortion, nor let the woman perceive them as waging a battle for the life of the child. Rather, the counsellor must embrace the fragility and vulnerability of the despairing mother at the level of the heart in order to seek relationship.
The relationship can only bear fruit when the counsellor succeeds in convincing the woman beyond any doubt that there is no life event, even the most desperate, for which abortion can provide a solution.
Abortion is the ultimate act of nihilism. Abortion never heals, never loves and never cares. Only communion and solidarity heals, loves and cares.
Kathleen May Monica Harrigan lived and breathed this communion and solidarity.
Bishop Anthony Fisher OP was the principal celebrant at the Mass of Christian Burial for Kath Harrigan at St Patrick’s Catholic Church and Woronora Cemetery in Sutherland, south of Sydney, on Friday, August 16.
A farewell blessing at Kath’s funeral exemplified the heart of the woman herself:
“Honour my time on this earth not with backward-looking ceremony, but rather with a lived-out blessing. Each smile, each act of goodness and mercy, each gentle touch, each moment of stillness, each peal of laughter, each moment of awe — no matter how little — let these celebrate the love we have shared, and continue to share, for all eternity.”
Dr Simon McCaffrey is an obstetrician and has been married for 29 years with 11 children. He is the current president of the NSW Right to Life and the DLP Senate candidate for NSW.