Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rest in Peace - Brother Richard Hughes, S.M.

The Province of Meribah, recommends to our fraternal prayers our dear brother, RICHARD HUGHES, of the Kellenberg Memorial Marianist Community (Uniondale), who died in the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 7, 2011 in Uniondale, New York, USA, at the age of 53 with 33 years of religious profession.

Richard was born on March 14, 1957, to Richard and Doris (Reinhardt) Hughes. He grew up in Floral Park on the eastern edge of New York City with his sisters Kathleen and Theresa and his brothers Edward and Philip. Richard attended the parish school at Our Lady of the Snows in Glen Oaks, NY. His many years as a Boy Scout sparked Richard’s interest in rocks, minerals and the earth sciences; a passion that continued throughout the rest of his life.

In September of 1971, Richard began his studies at Chaminade High School in Mineola. Those first months of Marianist education influenced the rest of Richard’s life. “I first began to think of becoming part of the Society of Mary when I was a freshman,” Richard reflected many years later. “At this time, I had the opportunity of working with the Brothers on Saturdays and several free days throughout the year. I would always look forward to these Saturdays when I would be able to share in the life and work of the Brothers.”

Richard joined the Society of Mary immediately after his graduation from Chaminade in June, 1975. Bro. Richard was one of the first novices of the Meribah Province and professed his first vows on January 8, 1978. He pursued his academic and professional studies at St. John’s University (BS 1979) and Adelphi University (MS 1982).

Brother Richard began his many decades as a Marianist educator in September of 1979. Over the years, he proved his skill and versatility as a teacher of earth science, physics, mathematics and religion. He taught at Chaminade (Mineola) until 1987.

In March of 1987, Richard was chosen as one of the pioneers of a new Marianist school, Kellenberg Memorial High School, named in honor of the first bishop of Rockville Centre, Most Rev. Walter P. Kellenberg. This was to become his life’s work and his heartfelt passion. Richard immersed himself in every detail of the new school, serving as the first director of the Marianist community and the first Dean of Students of the new school. Much more of a “Martha” than a “Mary” in temperament, Richard thrived on the endless tasks and even the frequent turmoil of establishing a new school. He loved working with the young men and women of Kellenberg Memorial, particularly on service projects and retreats. Perhaps inspired by the Saturdays he remembered from his youth, Richard’s ideal weekend consisted of working with a group of students on the endless renovation of Kellenberg’s grounds and facility all morning, then marshalling the boys of his Service Club to set up and serve dinner to several hundred guests in the cafeteria in the evening. After washing all the dishes, Richard would load another group into one of the school vans and head off on the three-hour drive to Founder’s Hollow for a retreat beginning on Sunday morning.

Founder’s Hollow, the Marianist Residence and Retreat House located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, is Richard’s most enduring legacy to the Province. He investigated dozens of properties in pursuit of his dream of finding the ideal rural retreat where both the Brothers and students of the Province schools could enjoy the beauty of nature and the fellowship of community. Founder’s Hollow, established just weeks after the beatification of Fr. Chaminade in September, 2000 is a monument to Richard’s determination, devotion and dedication.

Although he enjoyed his school activities, Richard was also devoted to community life. As a novice he wrote: I can easily say that I feel readily at home with the Brothers of the community and that I enjoy being with them in times of work and in times of relaxation. The feeling of comfort and belonging which I experience in the community is a source of the confidence and enthusiasm with which I desire to profess my vows as a Marianist.” Richard found joy in serving his Brothers throughout his religious life. He was always ready to provide a small memento to mark a birthday or anniversary. Richard was available to drive a fellow Brother anywhere he needed to go; one Brother once joked that if someone suggested a road trip to California, Richard would have the car pulled up in the driveway ten minutes later exclaiming, “Let’s get on the road!” Travel arrangements were Richard’s forte. When he booked a trip, you would receive a small portfolio with seat assignments, boarding passes, ground transportation arrangements and hotel reservations. If he had been to the place you were visiting you would have restaurant suggestions, and foreign travellers always received an envelope of foreign currency. 

Richard’s long struggle with cancer showed his Brothers how to make life’s most important journey with patience and dignity. Richard’s unfailing good cheer and positive spirit during his almost five-year ordeal offer an inspiration and a challenge to look beyond the petty annoyances that can so preoccupy us. Even in the intense suffering of his final weeks, he never complained of pain. Shortly after 10 pm on March 7th, he opened his eyes and the pain disappeared from his face, replaced by a beautiful smile as he glimpsed the beatific vision. He died surrounded by his Brothers and his family one week before his 54th birthday.

May he rest in peace.