Sister Kathleen Hughes, MM

Born: June 7, 1937
Entered: October 18, 1960
Died: October 22, 2000

“Death is not extinguishing the Light. It is putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come.” This quote from the Bengali poet, Tagore, that Kathy chose for her memorial card exemplifies her deep faith and hope in God, and her love for the Bengali people with whom she had lived and worked. The Dawn came for Kathy on October 22, 2000 during our Mission Sunday Eucharistic Celebration at almost precisely the moment Sister Julianne Warnshuis led the community in a special intercessory prayer for Kathy. In April of 1999 when Kathy knew her illness was getting progressively worse, she wrote: “My life with Maryknoll has been so rich because my wonderful family traveled with me always. As I join my blood ancestors and Maryknoll ancestors in heaven, (please God) I promise you that we’ll welcome you when you come!”

Kathleen Morris Hughes was born June 7, 1937 in Lima, Ohio, the second of seven children — two daughters and five sons — to Morris and Beatrice Boose Hughes. Kathleen received her early education in Lima and after graduating from St. Rose High School in Lima, pursued her studies and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Four months later, in October of 1960, she entered Maryknoll at Valley Park, Missouri. At Reception, Kathleen received the religious name of Sister Miriam Pacis. After making her First Profession of Vows on June 24, 1963, she completed a twelve-month internship in Hospital Dietetics at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. She then returned to the Valley Park Novitiate to serve as Dietitian for a year before coming here to the Center to be liaison for Food Services.

In 1967, she was assigned to Hong Kong – her home for the next twenty years. Two years later, Kathy made her Final Profession and, at her request, she is now wearing the mantilla that she wore for her Final Profession thirty one years ago in Hong Kong.

Upon her arrival in Hong Kong, Kathy studied Cantonese at New Asia Language School, now a part of Chinese University. After language study, she worked as the Dietitian at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital, a 260 bed facility in the refugee resettlement area of Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon. In 1973, Kathy became Matron of Health and Nutrition at the Student Aid Project in Rennies Mill and served in this capacity for three years.

Kathy always had a great concern and love for the poor. This strong desire to promote social justice prompted her to join the Staff of the Hong Kong Association for the Promotion of Public Justice in 1976, where she would be in ministry for twelve years. Here she assisted elected Urban Councillor and well-known advocate for the poor, Ms. Elsie Elliot, in pressuring the government about the needs of the poor, especially their need for public housing since land was at a premium in Hong Kong and rents were prohibitive, particularly for new immigrants from mainland China. During the 1980s, she became involved in helping the increasing number of Filipina domestic workers arriving in Hong Kong who were often mistreated or not paid for their work. Recognizing her keen mind, the Maryknoll Sisters elected Kathy to the Maryknoll Sisters Hong Kong Regional Governing Board as Planning Coordinator. She served again on the Personnel Committee from 1982 – 1985 and was elected as the Regional Delegate to the 1984 General Chapter.

In 1988, after much discernment, Kathy requested a transfer of Regions and she was assigned to Bangladesh where she worked in Community-based health education and nutrition programs for two years. Describing her work with mothers of severely malnourished children she wrote: “In my nutrition courses at Michigan, our professors had shown us pictures of certain very severe nutritional disorders, and said that we would never see anything as terrible as that in our lifetimes. Well, I saw all of them – and worse – in Bangladesh. So many of the mothers are terribly malnourished. It is common for them to have no milk once the babies are born, or for the baby to be too weak to suck. We fed those babies with a spoon, and nourished the mothers too.” The nutrition and health center she worked out of was a mud and bamboo hut similar to the ones the women lived in. This was a deliberate choice so the mothers would feel comfortable when coming to the center. She taught the women the importance of high protein food and how to prepare it for their infants and children. She also taught them about oral rehydration, worm medicine, sanitation, powdered milk and vegetables and brought food and vitamin supplements for them when she visited their homes.

In 1990, Kathy returned to the Center and become Manager in the Data-Direct Mail Office for the Development Department. After she was diagnosed with an illness in 1996, she continued to give service in this department as her health permitted. In 1992, she spent six months on family ministry caring for her parents. That same year, Kathy was honored by the Lima Central Catholic High School by being inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in recognition of her Community Service.

Kathy was one of the founders of Centercerns which is responsible for coordinating the response of the Maryknoll Sisters here at the Center to issues of social justice world wide. She was also one of the earliest members of the Westchester Chapter of the Maryknoll Affiliates and recently amazed all of us with her enthusiastic participation in the Affiliates Millennium Conference despite the advanced state of her illness.

Just a few months ago, the Sisters in Bangladesh wrote to Kathy to thank her for the gifts she sent them. I am sure we all recognize Kathy’s personality and character in what they wrote: “How many letters and candy treats you sent us knowing some of the very things that would cheer our minds and hearts. Thank you for your very generous and loving thoughtfulness towards all of us. We have felt a bond with you in all our ministry endeavors and the strength and fervor of your missionary commitment has been a great support to us. We love you dearly.” And to this, Kathy, your family and your Maryknoll Sisters all say: “AMEN!”

This morning we welcome and extend our deepest sympathy to Sr. Kathy’s family and friends. We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Fr. Larry Lewis, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we remember and give thanks for the life of our Sister Kathy.