By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 2, 2010
Marist Father Eugene Hughes served the church for more than five decades, teaching in classrooms and working in parishes.
Father Hughes, 80, died Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the North East Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center, in Atlanta, while he was recovering from a car crash.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Father Hughes was one of nine children. He attended a high school seminary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, meeting his lifelong friend and future Marist priest, Father Andrew McCormack. Both of them wanted to join a religious order dedicated to Mary, and both entered St. Mary’s Manor, the minor seminary of the Marist Fathers and Brothers in South Langhorne, Pennsylvania, to begin their college studies.
Father Hughes made his first vows as a Marist in 1951 and on Feb. 2, 1957, along with Father McCormack he was ordained a priest in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington by Bishop Michael J. Keyes, SM, bishop-emeritus of Savannah.
He and Father McCormack served the Archdiocese of Atlanta at Marist School and in parishes throughout their decades of ministry. Father McCormack died in 2007.
Marist Father Jim Duffy, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta, said Father Hughes, his housemate of three years, was a “holy, humble man” beloved by churchgoers.
Father Duffy said he often scheduled his friend to provide the sacrament of reconciliation. “He loved the sacrament. He truly enjoyed seeing healing and peace come to people through the sacrament. Very quietly, very humbly,” he said.
So many people called to express their sadness that it’s disrupted the parish office, Father Duffy said. “They loved him to death. They truly loved him. He had a coterie of young adults that would go to him for the sacrament of reconciliation, for advice.”
To sharpen his mind, Father Hughes worked on crossword puzzles and also quoted Shakespeare, said Father Duffy. “He loved (The New York Times) crossword puzzle and hated it, but he was faithful to it,” he said.
Father Duffy laughed when he said Father Hughes was never interested in fashion.
“His clothes were as old as Methuselah. He always came up with an excuse. I think he’s going to be rolling in his grave, because I bought new shoes—not expensive—for the funeral. There was not a pair good enough to put on him.”
“He was terrific,” said Father Duffy.
Another Marist priest, Father Joel Konzen, the principal of the Marist School, said he and his long-time friend would often laugh about school happenings. “He understood those from his years in the classroom, so that, with barely a smile, he would respond, ‘Well, as the principal, I hope you will …’ and then would suggest some preposterous action. We would both laugh,” Father Konzen said in an e-mail.
Father Hughes lived the spirit of the religious order: “hidden and unknown.”
“Everything about Father Hughes said, ‘Pay me no attention. I’m just here to do God’s will and his work,’ ” Father Konzen said.
Father Hughes’ first assignment was to Marist School, then called Marist College, in downtown Atlanta, where he stayed until 1960. Afterwards, he worked in classrooms at St. Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio, and Mary’s Manor in Penndel, Pa., then the high school seminary for Marist seminarians.
In the summer of 1978, Father Hughes began to serve in parishes. He became associate pastor at St. Michael Church in Wheeling, W.Va., then to his first assignment as pastor at Holy Family Church, in Richwood, W.Va.
Father Hughes arrived at St. Joseph Church in Marietta in 1986 and served at the parish for eight years as a parochial vicar.
He moved to Our Lady of the Assumption parish in 1994 as the associate pastor. He retired in 1999, but he returned to the parish to continue living his retirement years.
On Aug. 2, after his daily visit to the parish office, Father Hughes was returning by car up the hill on the church property, back to the rectory. At the top of the hill, he lost control of the car, which rolled over before settling at the bottom. He suffered a broken knee, several small bones broken in his neck, and multiple lacerations. He was treated at the Atlanta Medical Center and was later transferred to North East Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center. Complications developed, however, and Father Hughes died of a heart attack on Aug. 24.
Father Hughes is survived by a sister, Joan Lillian Cottrell, and numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass for Father Hughes was celebrated Saturday, Aug. 28, at Our Lady of the Assumption Church. He was buried in the Marist section of Westview Cemetery.