Sister Julia Durack, MM

Born: July 14, 1925
Entered: September 2, 1952
Died: January 4, 1974

Sister Dolores Congdon telephoned from Seoul, Korea to inform us of the death of Sister Julia Durack (Maria Luz) on Friday, January 4th at 4:00 p.m., Korean time.

In March of 1971, as many of you know, Julia underwent treatment in Korea. She made an excellent recovery and was in good health up until the fall of 1972, when her condition necessitated further treatment. Shortly after, she came to the States for her four-months furlough and then returned to Korea in March 1973.

A particular need of the community in Korea at the time Julia returned was for a Regional bookkeeper and someone to oversee the Center House in Seoul – someone who could offer gracious hospitality any time of the day – and Julia responded. She stayed there until her hospitalization on November 3, 1973.

And what of Julia? Julia graduated from Mercy College of Nursing, Detroit, in 1916, and entered Maryknoll in September 1952. She was professed in 1955 and then assigned to Ceylon where she worked as staff nurse in the Kandy General Hospital and the Padiwatte Clinic – pediatrics being her specialty. Although Julia experienced great difficulty with the Singhalese language, the people she served sensed her zeal and sincerity and responded. Her Sisters found her a joy to live with!

In 1962, Julia returned to the States and joined the Bethany staff for three years service. She then studied midwifery and in 1966 was assigned to Korea, responding to the need for a nurse with a specialty in midwifery. Once again she experienced the difficulty of learning the language, this time the most difficult of Oriental languages, Korean. She was assigned to the Maryknoll Hospital in Pusan in 1967 and given the task of setting-up the OB-GYN department. This was a particularly important period in the history of the Maryknoll Hospital. For while the final touches were being put on the organization of the hospital, plans were being prepared for the eventual turning-over of the hospital to the Korean Bishop. For someone not possessing Julia’s “true grit” – arriving on the scene at this particular time and handicapped by a language difficulty – the task would have been near to impossible! In a very short time, however, she had won the respect and admiration of the doctors, nurses and residents for her competence in maternity work. Her goodness, zeal and sincerity shone through and the task was accomplished with Julia’s understudy replacing her as Department Supervisor.

Julia then responded to the need for personnel in one of the Maryknoll clinics in the rural area of Jeung Pyeung, where she served from 1971 until her furlough in the fall of 1972.

Since November Sister has fought her illness valiantly and courageously. She returned home to the convent at Seoul on December 22nd. Julia’s health condition at this point necessitated the use of a wheel chair. Despite this, Sister Dolores said that she was always interested in what’s going on even to enjoying just a little bit of ice cream on New Year’s Day. It was Sister’s wish to remain in Korea and her brother and two sisters were able to visit her around Thanksgiving. The family is setting up a Sister Julia Durack Memorial Fund which will be used for the work in Korea. Sister will be buried on January 8th with a Mass of the Resurrection at the parish church which is the Martyrs Shrine overlooking the Han River and she’ll be buried at a cemetery just about 5 minutes away from our convent in Seoul.

In reading through the various correspondence in Julia’s file, one is struck by the qualities others saw and appreciated in her. Julia was distinguished by a deep and abiding charity, attachment to prayer, an unusual guilelessness and sincerity, an effortless generosity, untiring zeal, an obedient spirit and a love for and loyalty to community which evoked her wholehearted response in all she was asked. She mentioned to one of the Sisters that she now realized that she was a “diamond in the rough” and hoped that through living these last days fully that Our Lord would smooth out the rough edges. Julia indeed lived and died as one who had made a total commitment to Christ through her Maryknoll Community. Let us together in community and personally praise and thank God for her life with us and ask that Jesus, whom she followed so well, grant her His peace and joy by bringing her into His Father’s Kingdom.