Gerard W Hughes SJ
One evening when he was about two-and-a-half years of age, and one of his elder sisters had said his night prayers with him and left him to go to sleep, Gerry Hughes remembers sitting up in his bed thinking, and then saying out loud and quite deliberately, the simple word “God.” He wanted to see what would happen; and he was disappointed when apparently nothing did. But it didn’t stop him from continuing to think and try things out as he went on seeking how to make contact with God. In fact, this early instance of exploring experience in order to find God in it became typical of Gerard W Hughes throughout his later life, as a schoolteacher at Stonyhurst, a university chaplain at Glasgow, a Jesuit tertian director and giver of directed retreats at St Beuno’s, a widely sought spiritual adviser, in Edinburgh, an acclaimed spiritual writer since The God of Surprises and a promoter of peace spirituality as far as Westminster. As he was to explain in his book, God, Where are you? it has been a continual pilgrimage for him to pursue his “personal journey of exploration into the mystery of God and of human life,” and to help others do the same, each in their own life and each in their own way.
It comes sometimes as a surprise to those who discover Gerry Hughes from his books to learn that there are two of them; and that those who are aware of this refer to him as “Gerry W”, as distinguished from his namesake, “Gerry J” Hughes, who is a fellow-Jesuit and a fellow-Glaswegian, although not a relative. To their Jesuit colleagues, in fact, it is common to refer affectionately to Gerry W, as “Gerry the walker”, recalling his pilgrimages on foot to Rome and to Jerusalem to sort out his experience and his ideas, in contrast to the other Gerry Hughes, who is known as “Gerry the talker”, in recognition of his deserved fame as a highly successful lecturer in philosophy!
On 22 March 2014, Fr “Gerry W” celebrated his ninetieth birthday at Campion Hall, where he has been Writer in Residence for some time, and where he is completing his latest book, to be called Cry of Wonder. The Campion Hall community and friends celebrated with a noble birthday cake dignified with one lit candle, presumably on the basis of one candle for every nearest hundred years.
Read Gerry's last blog post : There is nothing we can change except ourselves
Listen to the Homily preached by Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ at the Requiem Mass celebrated at Farm Street Church in London on the 17th November.
The Jesuit priest, author and spiritual guide, Fr Gerry W Hughes SJ, has died at the age of 90. His funeral will take place at Farm Street Church in London at 2pm on Monday 17 November 2014, followed by burial at St Beuno's Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales at 12 noon on Tuesday 18 November.
Gerard William Hughes was born on 22 March 1924 in Skelmorlie, Ayrshire, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1942. After studying at Heythrop College (at that time in Oxfordshire), Skt Georgen in Frankfurt and Campion Hall, Oxford, he was ordained in 1958, and made his final vows as a Jesuit at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, three years later. He taught at Stonyhurst for nine years before and after ordination.
From 1967 to 1975, Father Hughes served as Chaplain at Glasgow University, before concentrating on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, first at Southwell House in Hampstead, where he was a member of 'The Way' community, and then at one of the Jesuits’ formation houses, St Beuno’s in North Wales.
Ignatian Spirituality always played a major part in the life of Gerry W. Hughes. After leaving St Beuno’s at the end of 1983, he worked ecumenically on spirituality in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden and Finland, introducing retreats in daily life and offering training courses to enable lay people to accompany other lay people in prayer and in retreat-giving. He was one of the founders of ‘Manresa Link’, an ecumenical association promoting the Spiritual Exercises, while based at Manresa House in Birmingham. He was the ‘support person’ to the Birmingham JVC community for many years and served as guide for Jesuits at various stages in their formation, including as novices.
Fr Hughes studied theology in Germany just after the war and that made a big impression on him. He was involved in a particular way in spirituality for those involved in social justice, and working especially with justice and peace groups and individuals. In this regard he had a life-long link with Pax Christi.
‘Gerry W’ (as he was affectionately known) will probably be best remembered for his inspiring talks and books. His 1985 book God of Surprises was described by Gerald Priestland as “one of the great books of spiritual guidance”. The sequel, God in All Things, was published in 2003. Other books included Oh God, Why? and an account of his personal spiritual journey, God, Where Are You? His final book, Cry of Wonder, was published on 23 October 2014, shortly before his death on 4 November.
Writing on his web site, Gerry W. Hughes summarised his faith that was deeply rooted in Ignatian Spirituality: “I am a Jesuit priest. As a Christian I believe that God really is in all peoples and in all things, a loving and compassionate presence”.