Father Raymond A. Hill, MM

Born: May 21, 1925
Ordained: June 8, 1957
Died: September 27, 1991

Father Raymond Aloysius Hill died peacefully at St. Teresa’s Residence at 5:15 p.m., Friday, September 27, 1991. He was 66 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 34 years.

Raymond Aloysius was born in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on May 21, 1925, son of Raymond A. Hill and Elizabeth Martha Short. He had two brothers, one of whom was killed in action during World War II, and one sister. As a boy he attended elementary school and graduated from Dobbs Ferry High School in June 1942. After graduation he worked in a theater and studied at the Radio-Television Institute in New York City during 1943-1944. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1944 and served as an aviation mechanic in the Asia Pacific area. He was honorably discharged as a Private First Class on March 23, 1946. He enrolled in the electrical engineering course at Manhattan College, New York during 1947-1949.

During that time his boyhood desire to be a priest came to fruition and he entered Maryknoll Junior Seminary in Brookline, Massachusetts in September 1949. Raymond was initially attracted to Maryknoll through the religious atmosphere that prevailed in his home, a visit to his parish church by a Maryknoll missioner and by reading The Field Afar Magazine during his youth. The pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Dobbs Ferry, who recommended him for admission to Maryknoll wrote that Raymond Hill “possessed a high degree of intelligence, integrity, morality, common sense, and a deep sense of responsibility.” It was an estimate of his personality that proved true through all of Father Hill’s priestly life and career. Raymond was ordained a priest at Maryknoll Seminary, New York on June 8, 1957. From Maryknoll Seminary he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theology and a Master of Religious Education. Later in 1985 he received a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the School of Theology of St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland. His thesis for the doctorate bears the title: “Maryknoll’s Mission Education Apostolate: Its Origin, Its Impact, Its Future.” His thesis advisor commented that “it was the intent of the project to look at the reality of Maryknoll’s efforts at mission awareness within the United States today in order to appreciate what was being done well, what might be done better, and what it should not be doing at all.”

After ordination, Father Hill was assigned to the Maryknoll Mission Region in Chile, South America, where he served for 15 years. After language studies at the Maryknoll Language School in Cochabamba, Bolivia, his first assignment was to the parish of Pemuco for a short time and then he was transferred to the parish of Curepto in the Diocese of Talca. During that time, the Bishop of Talca was Manuel Larrain, considered as a precursor of many of the changes underway in the transformation of the Latin American Church. When he arrived in New York for the 1966 General Chapter, Father Hill later remarked that “we were not all that aware of the major issues debated at the Vatican Council. What helped me to understand all of this was the Chilean Church itself which was a very avant-garde Church. Many of the things the Vatican Council was calling for were already being done in the Chilean Church. We had the leadership there of Bishop Manuel Larrain of the Talca Diocese. I would certainly list him as one of my heroes.”

Later he returned to Pemuco for another short period and then was assigned to the Molina Agricultural School, which was turned over to Maryknoll Brothers in 1964. It was at the Agricultural School that Father Hill worked closely with the Maryknoll Brothers which gave him new insights into the Brothers’ charism in mission, an insight that remained in his consciousness for the remainder of his life. He especially liked the work among the Small Christian Communities in his next assignment to San Alberta Parish in Santiago. This gave him an appreciation for the role of the laity in the life and work of the Church. At this time he became associated with the Papal Volunteers which opened his vision to the role of the laity in overseas mission.

His confreres respected him for his sense of humor and initiative, and his sensitivity to the needs and the feelings of others. Due to his engineering background he earned the reputation of being Mr. Handy Man or Mr. Fix-it. This ability served him well in the various leadership positions he held within the Society. In September of 1964 he was involved in the early stages of the development of the first Maryknoll Overseas Training Program in Chile. In 1965, he was appointed 2nd Consultor to the Chile Regional Superior, and elected the Chapter Delegate from Chile for Maryknoll’s 1966 General Chapter. After the Chapter on January 1, 1967, he became the Regional Superior of the Chile Region for a term of five years.

In 1972 he was elected First Chapter Delegate from the Chile Region, and participated in Maryknoll’s Sixth General Chapter in New York. At that Chapter he was elected the Sixth Superior General of the Maryknoll Society. Father Hill fulfilled the office of Superior General with distinction and served the Society and its members and Associates in an admirable manner until the end of his term. Under the impact of his leadership the Society developed a number of innovative programs, such as the Lay Missioner Program, the Brothers’ Formation Program, the formalization of the Overseas Training Program, the development of the Maryknoll Mission Units, the growth of Orbis Books, the Inter-Chapter Society Assembly, and the overseas Mission Area concept. The establishment of the new Mission Units during Father Hill’s term emphasized a Christian presence among Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. New initiatives of collaboration with the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation began during his term as Superior General. In the mid-1970s he initiated annual meetings of the Superiors General of the five Mission Sending Societies of the Americas. This initiative led to the formation of annual meetings of the 15 Mission Societies of Apostolic Life world wide.

In February 1979, Father Hill was assigned to Maryknoll’s Mission Unit in Nepal where he served as Unit Coordinator. Building on his experience in Chile in the Agricultural School, he directed the first Vocational and Technical Training Center for the mentally handicapped in Nepal. During this period Father Hill was also a catalyst for bringing together the various religious communities and congregations working in Nepal in order to understand the implications of mission in a Buddhist and Hindu culture.

At the end of 1980, he was recalled to the United States to serve on the newly formed Vocation Task Force for the purpose of developing vocations to Maryknoll. This Task Force refined the present concept of vocation ministry for the Society. In 1983, he was elected as a Chapter Delegate from the U.S. Region and attended Maryknoll’s Eighth General Chapter in 1984. Following the Chapter in June, 1985, Father Hill was appointed Regional Superior of Maryknoll’s U.S. Region for a three-year term, and reappointed again in June 1988. In that capacity he attended Maryknoll’s Ninth General Chapter in 1990. In all, Father Hill attended five General Chapters, the days adding up approximately to one full year of his life, a fact which was joyfully celebrated by the Delegates during the Ninth General Chapter.

Father Hill, as is evident from the above review of his life and considerable achievements for the Church and the Maryknoll Society, accepted the positions of authority because the Community called him, and he responded with generosity and distinction. His deep love and extensive knowledge of Maryknoll, along with his concern for its members and Associates, lent great weight to his opinions and guided his decisions. When asked about his approach to problems, he responded that his was a low-keyed one of patient listening, as well as one given to effective delegation of authority. In his last letter to the members of the U.S. Region, dated September 27, 1991, he wrote: “I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank you most sincerely for the brotherly concern expressed in kind words and the Masses and prayers offered for me. I have been blessed by many opportunities to serve Maryknoll. One of my greatest thrills came when I requested Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Blessing for the 1978 Chapter. He urged us to remember that the ‘Church needs Maryknoll and that Maryknoll should be a fire to the world’. I pray that we may never fail to appreciate it.”

In the Spring of 1991, Father Hill discovered an illness. In spite of pain and the treatment about which he never complained, he carried on his duties as Regional Superior along with the added duties of Chief Executive Officer of Maryknoll’s offices and apostolates in the United States.

Prayer Services were held at St. Teresa’s Residence Chapel and at Maryknoll Center Chapel on Monday evening, September 30, conducted by Father Kenneth F. Thesing; and Tuesday, October 1, conducted by Father William F. Mullan. Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial was offered in the Center Chapel on Wednesday October 2 at 11:15 a.m., with his nephew, Father Philip W. Hill as principal celebrant, and Father Thomas B. Kirchmyer as homilist. The burial service in Maryknoll Center Cemetery was led by Father Leo B. Shea.