When Father Hughes was young, he always thought that he would be a doctor. He liked science and was more studious than athletic, so it seemed a worthy pursuit. While he was in in high school, he was amazed at a presentation made by a newly ordained Vincentian priest during the annual Vocations Awareness Week.
The priest presented a side of priesthood that Father Hughes had never imagined. As a typical kid, he thought that priests said Mass, prayed, and lived generally “boring” lives. However, this priest described how he worked in a poor North Philadelphia neighborhood with a group of volunteers who fixed the homes of the elderly and the poor. This talk made Father Hughes reflect on whether he was being called to be a priest. It took 3 more years for him to conclude that the answer was “yes.”
Father (now Monsignor) Rock was an inspiration to Father Hughes as well, challenging him in his freshman Honors English class to find his potential and become a serious student. Sister Marianne chaperoned a trip to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland during his senior year, opening a window into the world beyond South Jersey, and Father Hughes hasn’t stopped traveling since. His parents, family, and several other priests of the diocese, especially the late Monsignor Velozo, likewise played a major role in his formation.
After leaving Paul VI, Father Hughes found that he was better prepared for college than the average student at LaSalle College (now University). He found college relatively easy, which gave him the time to be involved in his parish and reflect on what God wanted him to do. By the end of his freshman year at LaSalle, where he had been a pre-med major, he realized that he needed to apply to the diocese to become a seminarian. He came to understand that a priest was like a doctor. You simply cared for souls.
Father Hughes has been connected to Paul VI for most of his life, and he says that his blood truly runs “blue.” As a young priest, he was assigned to Holy Saviour in Westmont, and each Advent and Lent from 1991 to 1996 he would hear confessions for the students. Then from 1996 to 1999, he served as a teacher at Paul VI (Latin I, II, III; Senior Religion) and Yearbook Moderator, Senior Level Moderator, and Religion Chairperson. From 2001 to 2003, he was the first President of Paul VI (taught Latin III and IV) and then reprised that role as the third President from 2005 to 2011.
Father Hughes has learned countless lessons in a half-century, but he considers the most important one to be yourself. He would like to remind students to be grateful for the 4 years they spend at Paul VI. A Catholic high school education is possible only with the sacrifice of loving parents who believe that the values taught at Paul VI are fundamental to a life of learning and excellence. He also advises students to work hard. In a world where so much comes to us easily, one can quickly forget that we have a responsibility to use the talents God has given us, to give Him glory, and to contribute unselfishly to the well-being of others.
Fr. Hughes has a number of Paul VI alumni in his family, including his sisters, Bernadette Hughes Underwood ’83 and Nancy Hughes Naulty ’86; his cousin, Jennifer LeFevre Montone ’89 his niece, Kaitlin Underwood ’14, and his nephew, Blake Underwood ’17.
In his free time, Father Hughes enjoys travel, music, and the beach.