Basking in the sun, sitting in his easy chair looking out the window of Canterbury Court, is where you’ll often find Rev. George Brant -- who is known to many, as Father Harry.
Father Harry is a man of great intelligence, a speaker of many languages and a lover of all things music. While he loves the traditions within an Anglican service of chanting and music, he is equally comfortable with the less traditional – having interfaith dialogues and meeting with people of all walks of life and beliefs.
Father Harry, was born in England in 1921. His parents, who had met and married in Saskatoon, found England stifling, so they returned to the wide open blue skies of the Canadian prairies, where Harry grew up.
The family lived in many Saskatchewan small towns. Harry, one of 5 siblings, studied music and learned French. As an accomplished pianist, he and his sister Alice would perform together at dances. She would sing; he would play. Alice adored her brother Harry, and he loved her. In fact when it came time to move back to Canada, he moved to Canterbury because Alice, his sister, was also there. Alice died a year ago at the age of 96. Harry is the last remaining sibling in his immediate family.
Today at age 99, Father Harry mostly misses the sounds of music; he has complete hearing loss and is unable to hear services and the music that accompanies. This is one of the hardest things for Father Harry now in his later years.
Father Harry studied theology at Immanuel College in Saskatchewan, and was ordained at All Saints Cathedral in Edmonton in 1944 as a deacon. The current Bishop wouldn’t ordain him to priesthood for some time because he felt he looked too young – much like now. People often don’t think Father Harry looks his 99 years of age.
Father Harry held a position of Curate at the cathedral and then went back to seminary to study Church History and Apologetics.
After his father’s death, he accepted a call to serve in Telford, New Jersey, about an hour from Manhattan. Father Harry loved his time in the United States but the place he speaks most fondly of is Mexico.
“I had so many happy memories of working in Mexico,” says Father Harry. “Learning about the people and their lives. Sitting down with people in whatever situation people found themselves to be in and to listen to them, which is why it is so hard to have lost all hearing now.”
Father Harry moved from New Jersey to Mexico City in 1970 and used his knowledge of Spanish for ministry in the cities of Monterey, & Chihuahua. He also spent time at some English speaking parishes there.
In 1984 Father Harry traveled to El Salvador where he spent time with Bishop Oscar Romero and assisted him in Catholic services. Not long after this photo was taken, Bishop Romero was assassinated. It was one of the most notorious crimes of the cold war.
From Mexico, Father Harry returned to the U.S and became rector of a parish of St. James in Hackettstown, New Jersey. For 15 years, he continued ministry in both Spanish and English and retired in the 1990’s.
When you ask Father Harry what he thinks his greatest contribution to the church was he says, “I think it is my gift of language and breaking down barriers.”
Despite his retirement, he continued to travel the world teaching English.
Through the Global Volunteers program, Father Harry traveled to Reymontaawka, Poland in 1995, Xian, China in 1998 and to Queretero, Mexico in 1999 teaching English.
Through Elder Hostel, a scholarly educational adventures company, Father Harry went to the Centre for Cross Cultural Study in Cuba in 2000.
Father Harry moved to Canterbury Foundation, a continuing care centre in west Edmonton, from New Jersey at the age of 97 to be near his family. His children live here in Edmonton. While he says it was hard to move at that stage in life, and he very much misses his Anglo-Catholic parish in the U.S., he is grateful for the family support.
Now at Canterbury, Father Harry likes the community feel. He eats meals together with the many residents in the Court Dining Room and enjoys walking in the outside courtyard. He prays the daily offices each day, and meets with Canterbury’s in-house Chaplain privately.
He is happy that other residents have the availability of the Chapel especially now, during the pandemic.
His advice for those during this challenging time in our history is, “While it is hard to be separated from family, we are all in this together, we are not alone. We have each other and we have God. Maybe God is in all the knowledge we gain, and in helping us to solve the difficulty, (through Science). God is in the midst of us.”
Father Harry often says that he is still planning to go back to University. What he means is, upon his death he will donate his body to the University of Alberta for medical research. His brother was a doctor and Harry was so inspired by his work that he wishes to give the gift of his body.
For a man so well traveled, so well versed in languages and so inspired by the world’s teachings, Father Harry has had a full life.
When asked to look back and reflect on his life, Father Harry simply says, “I have had a fascinating life.”