Although he never met his South African uncle, Bruce Cull of Yankton was familiar with the Anglican priest’s work with the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Tutu, the retired Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, was the first black to hold the post and died on December 26 at the age of 90. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he was best known for his efforts against apartheid in South Africa and for his global work for social justice and racial equality.
South Africa’s apartheid policy, or racial separation in society, isolated it from much of the world for decades until official practice ended.
âMy uncle, (Father) Francis Duncan Cull, was Desmond Tutu’s spiritual director. How does it work for three degrees of separation? Bruce Cull asked with a feeling of awe.
âI never met my uncle in person, but we heard about him from my dad and spoke on the phone several times. But I was very aware of my uncle’s work with Archbishop Tutu.
Father Cull served as Tutu confessor in Bishopscourt, the residence of the Southern African Archbishop of the Church of England (better known as the Episcopal Church in the United States).
In his role, Tutu has served as archbishop of millions of people in several countries. He served during a tumultuous time for both church and society, Father Cull being a close spiritual advisor.
An article by Michael Battle described Father Cull’s role as Tutu’s spiritual advisor on a personal level.
As Tutu’s confessor, Father Cull would hold Tutu responsible for going into retreat at least once a year, making a seven-year silent retreat if necessary, saying his prayers, and confessing his sin.
âTutu had an intense awareness of his flaws, said Cull, and was deeply introspective,â Battle wrote. âCul and I explained that most people would never have believed that about Tutu, given his outgoing and dynamic personality.
âCul used to say that you couldn’t understand Tutu unless you also understood Tutu’s spiritual struggles. “
Father Cull was also the first director of the Center for Christian Spirituality, which he and Tutu founded in 1986. In an essay, Father Cull noted that Tutu followed Benedictine spirituality in the Anglican tradition, following rest, prayer and work, in that order.
A Church Times article noted the belief that Tutu and Cull sought to help both clergy and laity balance the demands of activism and the life of prayer – not pursuing the one all. neglecting the other.
Bruce Cull’s father and uncle both served in the British Army during World War II. After the war ended, Bruce’s parents were sponsored to come to the United States to work with the Episcopal Church. They lived in Yankton and were asked to run St. Mary’s, a bishopric school for Native American girls in Springfield that has since closed.
Work at St. Mary’s has become a long-standing mission, said Bruce Cull.
âThey were asked if they would do it for a year,â he said. âThirty years later, they retired from school.
During this time, Francis Cull moved to South Africa and became very active in the Anglican Church, Bruce said.
âAt first my uncle had his own congregation, then he worked his way up (the church hierarchy) until he was appointed spiritual advisor to Desmond Tutu,â Bruce said.
Francis Cull is deceased and Bruce said he didn’t have much contact with his uncle due to travel and communication issues at the time. However, Bruce tries to keep in touch with his children and other family members through email.
With the ease of modern air travel, Bruce Cull now heads to Africa for safaris. He sees beauty and transformation, especially in South Africa, where Tutu and his uncle have carried out their ministry and activism.
âMy uncle lived off South Africa, on the island of Madagascar. As far as the fight against apartheid is concerned, I have heard bits and pieces of others, âsaid Bruce Cull. “One thing I know, my uncle said he worked with a large group of people.”
Since starting to travel to Africa in the 1990s, Bruce Cull has seen Africa transform into a mix of traditional and western life. He also sees the changes in African society, especially on race, in which Tutu and his uncle played a major role.
âProbably the saddest part for me is never having the chance to have met my uncle. But my whole family was very religious and very involved in the church. It’s nice to see the result of their work. “, did he declare.
âAs for Desmond Tutu, he stood up for all that was right in the world and tried to do it. Obviously when you get the Nobel Peace Prize you’ve done a lot for a whole culture and civilization. It also shows the power of one person to inspire others.
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