Fr Pat McHugh: ‘A man of courage and vision'
FR PAT McHugh was described at his funeral as ‘a man of courage’ and so he was throughout his life and long illness.
Born in 1957 in Killynoogan, on the outskirts of Pettigo in Co Fermanagh, Fr Pat was ordained in St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan in 1979.
He ministered in several parishes and schools in Monaghan, Threemilehouse and Aghadrumsee before volunteering to help with the formation of priests in dioceses in England.
Later he was seconded to the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology to teach and ministered often during the summer months on Lough Derg, near to where he was reared.
He returned to the Clogher diocese as parish priest of Castleblaney and there undertook the huge task of renovating St Mary’s Church, one of his great legacies.
Fr Pat was not your typical Irish parish priest. He had no interest in any kind of show or preferment. He often attended Mass as one of the congregation to identify with the people rather than the clerical Church.
He was a forward-looking, progressive priest, passionate about the renewal of the Church and the involvement of the laity as proposed by the Second Vatican Council.
He did not always see eye to eye with the conservative wing of the Irish Church and was very much the kind of pastor favoured by Pope Francis.
A devoted community man, Pat regarded the parish GAA as essential in the formation of young people to be respectful and patriotic.
He was a former player with Ederney, St Joseph’s in the late 1970s and went on to be an administrator at many levels of the GAA. This was for him an important part of his ministry. He was passionate about Gaelic football and hardly missed a match during the summer months.
Fr Pat was also concerned to promote justice and peace in our fractured country. He abhorred the sectarianism of the northern state and the abuse of power by those who ruled for 50 years.
He was committed to the Good Friday Agreement and did what he could to create a new era of respect and toleration.
I considered Pat to be a true and trusted friend. With his presence and well-chosen words he was a great comfort to myself and to many others who suffered bereavement and loss.
In recent years, he was diagnosed with a serious illness which required constant medical attention. He kept on working in the diocese as best he could until a few months ago.
He died peacefully in the Mater Hospital in Dublin on April 27.
At his funeral Mass in St Mary's, Pettigo, the church closest to his home in Killynoogan, Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy expressed the thoughts of many.
“A man of courage, Pat spoke his truth regardless of how it was received," he said.
"Pat was always visionary – ahead of his time in many ways. He was never fearful of rocking things and shaking them up; of moving people out of cosy comfort zones into pastures new. He invited people 'to put out into the deep' and consider fresh possibilities (see Luke 5:4).
"Thank you, Pat, for your life and love. May you rest in peace.”
Fr Pat McHugh's month's mind Mass will be celebrated at 9.30am on Sunday May 29 in St Joseph's, Lettercran.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
Fr Joe McVeigh