Bishop Hughes

01-13-2013Weekly ReflectionDeacon Stephen Kern

Dear Parish Family:

Merry Christmas! If you are reading this on the weekend of January 12th and 13th (commemorating the Baptism of the Lord), it is still Christmas time according to the Church calendar. We are the only ones in our neighborhood who still have our house decoration lights on. In fact, I was going to use this edition of In Persona Christy to talk about the Church liturgical calendar. However, having just attended the funeral of Bishop Edward Hughes, the second bishop of our diocese of Metuchen, the Holy Spirit is moving me in a different direction for this letter.

Bishop Hughes was 92 when he died on Christmas morning. [What a wonderful day to return to our Father!] Though he appeared frail to me in recent years, he had remarkable stamina for his age, and would go down to Washington for the annual Pro-Life March until he was in his late 80's. He was well known for residing at Confirmations at parishes all over the diocese long after he retired as our bishop. In fact, Bishop Hughes confirmed all three of Rosemary and my children...and gave the same homily at each Confirmation. From my discussions with other clergy and parents, it seems he confirmed an enormous number of children over the years...and apparently had one basic homily. But it was a good one.

There were two particular causes that Bishop Hughes was known for, and was particularly passionate about. Based on his experience as a priest and auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia, he saw the evils of racism firsthand and could not tolerate it. He established the annual Racial Harmony Mass in our diocese which is celebrated the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In those many Confirmation homilies he gave, he almost always found a way to include an anti-racism message which he emphasized to the children. But the thing that I will most remember Bishop Hughes for is his staunch defense of the church's pro-life teachings.

Bishop Hughes established the annual Respect Life Mass (held every January near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade), and established what eventually became the diocese's Office of Respect for Life. As I said above, he was a regular participant in the annual March for Life. [May this be an inspiration for all of us at St. Magdalen's. The March for Life in Washington will be on Friday, January 25th this year, and if an 89 year old retired bishop can go down in the dead of winter and peacefully protest the culture of death in our country, surely we might make the effort to clear that day on our calendar to make such an important statement.] The Bishop would also typically visit one of the Life Chains that are assembled every October in each county of our diocese, another way that we visibly demonstrate to our community our core faith beliefs.

As solid a pro-life person as could be, the Bishop had a particular talent for getting his message across in a gentle, non-threatening manner. Somehow Bishop Hughes was able to combine passion and conviction for all aspects of the gift of life with gentleness, kindness, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. (He frequently made jokes at liturgies about his singing talents...of which he had none.)

I hope as many of you as possible will be able to join our committed group of St. Magdalen participants at the Pro-Life march this month. While there, I will remember Bishop Edward Hughes and say a prayer of thanks to God for his steadfast leadership on the number one moral issue of our time. May we all pray for that gift of conviction and integrity, and for the ability to bring the message of the gift of life to all in our nation with a confident yet gentle firmness.

Peace, Deacon Stephen