January 2, 1921 – August 31, 2013
“For the beauty of the earth”… a phrase from a hymn that apparently seemed to resonate within Sister Eileen Hughes’ soul. Proof of its existence can be seen, if you drive up Waban Street in Newton, and look at the grounds of our former residence, Maria Convent. Bordering the convent premises and some of the Aquinas property you see beauty… a menagerie of flowers and trees. The Gardener of this has been absent for eleven years, yet the flowers and trees planted years ago are still blooming! And who was this Gardener? It was Sister Eileen Hughes!
One wonders if this love for nature’s beauty was formed within Sister Eileen’s family as she grew up with her brothers and sisters in the loving care of her parents. Or did it begin when she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1942. Perhaps it was instilled within Eileen as she became aware of God’s presence in the beauty of creation. For not only did Sr. Eileen love nature, but she also loved music. She was one of the first members of the Sisters’ Chorus and delighted in blending her voice with other Sisters of St. Joseph, to praise God, as well as entertain audiences throughout the Archdiocese.
In our Constitution we read:” We strive in every aspect of our lives to be for others a visible sign of God’s presence and active love.” Eileen’s life as a Sister of St. Joseph certainly manifested this spirituality in her ministry. She was a professional educator, spending much of her life as a primary and junior high teacher in classrooms of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. In 1971 Sister Eileen was selected to be a Principal. At St. John School in Winthrop Eileen’s academic skills and professional temperament, united students with their teachers and parents, in fostering a spiritual, scholastic environment that empowered students toward success. Her ministry at the Catholic School Office and at the Motherhouse conveyed her generous spirit. This approach was intensified in her ministerial positions at the Jackson School, as well and in the bookstore of Aquinas College. It was said that the Aquinas students visited the Aquinas College bookstore not only to see Sister Eileen’s smile, but also knowing they would be recipients of her big-hearted spirit.
Sister Eileen valued this statement in our Constitution on the section, Spirit and Purpose, “Responsibleto the Spirit…we move through rhythms of prayerful reflection, discernment and action”. I believe it was from deep reflection and prayer that Eileen felt called in 1994 to join with another Sister of St. Joseph of Boston and seven other religious women, to participate in The Border Awareness Experience in Mexico, which was sponsored by the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. At the completion of this experience, Sister Eileen wrote an article in SOUNDINGS, and in part said, “Truly together, we walked, talked, laughed and cried, ever mindful of our “being sent” to the poor. And all the while, we were “Weaving into the fabric of our lives…. God’s love for the poor, God’s faithful listening, God’s gift of love”. (CSJ Constitution) As a woman of prayer I believe Sister Eileen knew she had been chosen by God. She offered her life to the service to her loving God and manifested this service as a woman of the church to all she encountered with kindness, humility, and gentleness.
As with many of us, time causes transition in our lives. This was true for Sister Eileen Hughes. She had resided at Maria Convent for many years, ministering at Jackson School and Aquinas College. However, God seemed to want Sister Eileen to bring her gifts to Bethany. This she did in her earlier years at Bethany. Many Sisters who were patients and staff members can recall Sister Eileen’s kindness and thoughtfulness to them. The same qualities that had been manifested in her active ministry, Sister Eileen offered to others until she was in need of assistance herself.
As Sister Eileen’s illness began to increase her tranquil personality, gentle smile and grateful eyes transferred her messages to those who cared for her. In fact, one staff members on the second floor told me, Eileen would gently rub her arm in gratitude as she was assisting her.
Sister Eileen’s active life in the Congregation indeed radiated a dedicated Sister of St. Joseph, who was a visible sign of God’s active and inclusive love. Her intimacy with her God instilled within her recognition of her special call with a deep desire to be a religious woman who was enflamed by the great love of God in service to the dear neighbor.
May you, Sister Eileen Hughes, rest in the place God has prepared for you. We the Sisters of St. Joseph thank you for sharing your life with us for these past seventy one years.
Gail Donahue, CSJ