Henry J. Hughes, 82, Spring Grove chaplain

June 20, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

The Rev. Henry J. Hughes, who ministered to the mentally ill and the addicted, died Sunday of a stroke at University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 82.

Father Hughes retired in 1983 as chaplain at Spring Grove Hospital Center. He was the state institution's first full-time Catholic chaplain after his appointment in 1963. He began his association with the institution on a part-time basis in 1948.

"I see the young and the old of all races, those whose troubles may be mild or severe. There are alcoholics, drug addicts, people who suffer from psychosis or neurosis, schizophrenics and a few people who are retarded," Father Hughes said in an Evening Sun interview in 1964.

He tried to make patients understand that "it is not a catastrophe or a curse to come to Spring Grove -- that from all evil which befalls them, good can come," he said in the interview.

"There was never one he didn't have time for," said Tim McCarthy, a Baltimore addictions counselor and friend for many years.

"When patients made absurd requests, he listened, smiled and helped whenever he could. His daily routine was to visit all the wards of the hospital, and invite all who were interested to say the Rosary with him. It is appropriate that he died on Father's Day -- he was a spiritual father to thousands of people," Mr. McCarthy said.

Father Hughes was ordained in 1947 after graduating from St. Mary's Seminary and University School of Theology and Ecumenical Institute in Roland Park.

Monsignor Francis W. Fortenbaugh, a friend, was ordained the same day as Father Hughes, and was with him when he died. "He was a marvelous and unbelievable person who would never say no to anyone. He also brought a lot of converts to the faith . . . Of all the priests I've known, I'll put Henry first," the monsignor said.

Monsignor Fortenbaugh invited Father Hughes to join St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church after the priest underwent triple bypass surgery in 1983. He busied himself with parish work and said Mass to the residents of a nearby nursing home.

A passionate New York Yankees fan, Father Hughes, who was known as Hank, was born and raised within the shadow of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and was educated in city schools.

"He used to work as a gate turner at the stadium so he could watch Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the other great Yankee players of the 1920s," said his brother, Robert Hughes of Yonkers, N.Y. "He was somewhat of an Orioles fan because he lived here but he really was crazy about the Yankees."

Father Hughes earned a bachelor's degree in 1932 and a master's in economics in 1934 from New York University. He worked briefly for a New Deal housing agency before he joined the federal Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington as an analyst in the late 1930s.

"He received the calling from God and that's when he decided to give up his job and go into the priesthood. He really had a lovely life and enjoyed being a priest," said his brother.

A Mass of Christian burial for Father Hughes will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Agnes Church, U.S. 40 at St. Agnes Lane, Catonsville.

Other survivors include many nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Agnes School, 5422 Old Frederick Road, Catonsville 21229.

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