Br Norman Hart FMS

6 December 1927 – 12 January 2022.

Dear Brothers

This evening, Norman died peacefully in the Prince of Wales hospital. He had a significant fall on Christmas Day, his health declined and he was admitted to hospital. Over the course of recent days he has been in and out of consciousness and finally succumbed at 7:30 pm. He was well cared for and comfortable over these last days.

Norman, or Donald as his family knew him, was born in North Sydney on 6 December 1927 to his loving parents Josephine Mary (nee James) and Charles William Hart. He was the second born of four boys; he was preceded by Christopher and followed by Robert and Richard. He was educated at Marist Mosman and then St Joseph’s College prior to completing his secondary schooling at the Juniorate Mittagong in 1943. He took the habit on 2 July 1944, was given the religious name Norman and made his first profession in 1945.

Like so many Brothers of his era, Norm had no formal teacher training prior to undertaking his first appointment in the primary school at Auburn in 1945. In 1950, he moved to the primary school at Rosalie in Brisbane and began a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland on a part time basis. Due to his innate intelligence and personal capacities he had many years of leadership beginning in 1957 as Principal of Marist Ayr in North Queensland, Darlinghurst in Sydney and in the role of Supervisor of Schools (NSW, QLD and Solomon Islands) from 1966. His appointment as Assistant Director Regionalisation in 1979 at the Catholic Education Office Sydney was a defining moment in his ministry, resulting in many years of distinguished leadership at the system level of Catholic Education as Regional Director in Sydney, and as Director of Schools in the new Diocese of Broken Bay in 1986.

Norm’s vision, practical wisdom and common sense equipped him to lead a new Diocese at an exciting time of expansion, innovation and change. With Bishop Murphy’s support, Norm laid a strong foundation for a promising future in the Diocese. In an interview with Br John Luttrell in 1999, Norm captured something of this time when he said,

From my personal point of view, I relished the idea of being part of a new system. It was a wonderful opportunity to inaugurate things that I felt strongly about. I was able to do all that, and I had a lot of freedom from Bishop Murphy – he was a marvellous person to work for. It was a wonderful opportunity to be grasped and to take on new approaches to some of the old questions.

And yet, during these heady times, he never lost the common touch being well loved by his staff at the Diocesan office for the deep respect he showed each person, his personal chats as he walked around the office each day, his infectious laugh and the organisation of many social gatherings that built a sense of family spirit.
Following this demanding role, Norm was engaged on a part time basis as the Executive Officer of the Conference of Diocesan Directors of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (CDD) between 1994 and 2003. He was also an Educational Adviser to both CDD and the Catholic Commission for Employment
Relations (CCER). The leader of CCER at the time, Michael McDonald, appreciated Norm’s presence explaining that his ‘wise, thoughtful advice was always provided in a constructive manner….and he sought to build people and their skills’. The significance of Norm’s contribution to Catholic Education cannot be underestimated and was during challenging times when resources were harder to come by and new approaches were being developed.

After his long service to the Church’s mission through educational leadership, Norm settled well into a new phase of his life at Randwick actively contributing to the life of the community, keeping in close contact with his family and enjoying many games of golf with brothers and friends. During his retirement years, the brothers in his community have valued his stable influence around the house and the store of practical wisdom that he has so often been to them. Indeed, Norm’s preparedness to ‘have a go’ even when his health has not been as strong as it could has been an inspiration to others.

Norm’s prayerfulness and spirituality have been foundational in his life. He has nourished his spiritual life with the reading of various books and has happily shared the insights he has gained with his brothers in community. The nature of his spirituality was evident when he wrote to Br Jeff Crowe asking to be a formal member of the Marist Association and stated,

I cannot help but see this as a positive outcome in keeping with the fundamental thinking of Vatican 2and the ‘signs of the times’…Gerard Manley Hopkins may even have imagined it: ‘Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cosseted East’.

Norm had a natural ability to meet people and to take an interest in them and what was happening in their lives. Many staff members, brothers and family members have been enriched by Norm’s care and friendship. His warmth and gentleness were endearing qualities. The attentiveness and love that he showed to family
members, especially in time of difficulty, was deeply appreciated. While he possessed a sharp mind and occupied significant leadership roles over a long period, there was always a simplicity about Norm that would put the other person at ease. In his later years, he was faced with regular bouts of poor health and suffering which he has borne with grace and humility, being prepared to seek the help and support of others when needed.

Finally, I offer our sympathy to Norm’s family and to Michael and the community at Randwick. We are sincerely grateful for the outstanding care given to him by the community, the staff of Marcellin House, Corinne and Jann.

Darren Burge.