Gerry W Hughes: A Pilgrim Prophet

Several hundred people gathered at Farm Street Church in London on Monday 17 November to pay their respects to Fr Gerard W Hughes SJ who died on 4 November. They had come from all over the country and represented a wide range of faith perspectives. Most had been touched by Gerry’s spiritual counsel over several decades – either in person or through his writings; and many were also associated with social justice issues.

In his homily, Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ described Gerry W as a ’Pilgrim Prophet’. “To be alongside him in stages of that lifelong pilgrimage could be rather like being alongside him on Ben Lomond on one of those Saturday student walks from the Glasgow chaplaincy,” reflected Fr Callaghan. “Exhilaration and encouragement could be mixed-in with measures of exasperation and sometimes near-exhaustion (emotional or physical) on the part of those sharing the journey but finding the pace set by Gerry to be often demanding and occasionally verging on the relentless.” His homily was also peppered with humour as he reflected: “Having been there on Ben Lomond as well at Stonyhurst, and in community with him in Glasgow and Oxford, I find the idea of Gerry ‘resting in peace’ an unlikely prospect: peace, yes, but Gerry resting?...”

Fr Callaghan, who was the Superior of the Oxford community when Fr Gerry lived at Campion Hall, described his books as “ challenging, liberating, questioning … that did not flinch from examining those aspects of our experience as individual persons and as church that leave us feeling ‘deeply flawed’”. “ He added that his “unflinching honesty enabled us, his readers, to find that the story of God’s self-giving love takes up and includes our story also, to learn that our brokenness and chaos are encompassed by God’s healing and transforming presence at the heart of our real lives – that ‘God is in the facts and the facts are kind’.”

Memories

Among the music at the Requiem Mass for Fr Gerry W Hughes was a piece composed and sung by Frances Kelly entitled ‘This Day I See’, which she had written in memory of the Jesuit priest and which concluded with the verse:

“As the morning mist clears the crest of the hill

Help, Lord to clear my mind,

That I might see as you would see,

As the day before unwinds.”

At the end of the service, Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi offered her tribute. She pointed out that she was grateful not just the ‘organised’ gatherings and retreats for which Gerry was responsible, but also for the support he gave to individuals over many years who, “worn down in their work or seeking  new direction for their work, found their way to his open door. I have personal thanks to offer here for his guidance through two eight-day retreats,” she said. “The first probably set me on the path to work for Pax Christi and the second, some years later, has helped to sustain me in the work for 25 years.”

Profile of Fr Gerry W Hughes including Fr Callaghan's homily on Soundcloud

Please visit our In Memoriam page if you would like to leave a message or a gift in memory of Gerry.

Photo: Fr Gerry with members of the Edinburgh Jesuit community