Jesuit Father Joseph B. McHugh passed away on September 4, 2015, in Weston, Massachusetts. Fr. McHugh was born on March 13, 1928, in Woburn, Massachusetts, a northern suburb of Boston. His parents, J. Joseph and Elizabeth (Keaney) McHugh, had been born in the nearby towns of Arlington and Winchester. One of five McHugh children, Fr. McHugh attended local schools and entered Boston College High School in 1942.
Because of the war, he finished high school early in order to enter the Shadowbrook novitiate in February 1946. After first vows and juniorate studies, he spent three years (1949-1952) in philosophy studies at Weston and then proceeded to three years of regency, teaching at Boston College High School. In 1955, he returned to Weston for theology studies and was ordained a priest there by Cardinal Richard Cushing in June of 1958. A year later he went to tertianship in Cleveland.
The first 10 years of Fr. McHugh’s ministry as a priest were spent teaching religion at three different high schools, B.C. High (1960-1967); Cranwell School (1967-1968,); and Fairfield Prep, where he also was a student counselor (1968-1970). In 1970, he was named rector of the Fairfield Jesuit Community and, two years later, when the province administration was reorganized to provide more effective cura personalis, Fr. McHugh became one of the three vice-provincials, for communities attached to secondary schools. He remained in that position from 1972 to 1977. Then he spent a year helping in a parish in Linstead, Jamaica.
In 1978, Fr. McHugh’s work turned in a direction that had been implicit in much of what he had been doing and that marked the work of his remaining years, the ministry of retreats and spiritual direction. He spent a year studying at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge. From 1979 to 1986, he was part of the staff at Campion Renewal Center; for four of these years he also acted as assistant director of the tertianship program there. From 1986 to 2002, he was on the staff at Eastern Point Retreat House. In 2002, he moved to Fairfield University and worked as a spiritual director and chaplain until 2007. Then he moved to Campion Center where he served as assistant chaplain to Jesuit residents in the health center from 2007 to 2011.
Fr. McHugh’s warm personality, psychological insight, quiet and sense of humor endeared him to everyone who knew him. He was especially valued as a mentor by younger Jesuit spiritual directors with whom he worked. One of these was the other Joe McHugh in his province, Joe F., 25 years his junior but also well known in the ministry of retreats and spiritual direction. They were good friends and both contributed to the long standing province practice of fashioning new epithets to clarify who was being referred to. Usually it was “Old Joe” and “Young Joe” but sometimes “Big Joe” and “Little Joe.” The senior Joe naturally preferred “Joe the Greater” and “Joe the Lesser.”
Fr. McHugh’s last years at Campion were relatively serene. He enjoyed conversations with visitors and took an active part in the life of the Campion community. He endlessly expressed his gratitude for the care of the staff. On the afternoon of September 4, 2015, the Campion superior anointed him and led the prayers for the dying with family members at his bedside. He died peacefully just before midnight.