Words of Remembrance for Brother Hugh Maguire, FSC
by Brother Malachy Broderick, FSC
Hugh Maguire and I were friends for over 66 years. As the Book of Sirach says:
-a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure.
-a faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
-a faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds.
Our friendship was a long-distance friendship. Since leaving Anselm Hall in 1959, we were never in the same community and only on rare occasions in the same city. We connected by phone and letters.
There is an Irish proverb which says: “The secret of the Irish is to live a long life without growing old.” This certainly describes the life experience of Hugh Maguire. He was alert and involved until dementia began to take its toll.
Hugh came from an immigrant Irish Catholic family in North Philadelphia. He had all of the charm and some of the sins of that culture. Hugh was educated in Catholic grade school and graduated from North Catholic High School. His contact with the Christian Brothers was the result of Bro. Egbert of Mary, a family friend, and the moderator of the North Catholic Mothers’ Club, which was an outgrowth of the St. La Salle Auxiliary.
Hugh was working as a salesman for a company that sold stationery and office supplies. When he entered the Novitiate, he was 28 years old – ten years older that the rest of us. In later years I asked him how he coped with age difference and he replied,”…you guys were my entertainment, your adolescent foolishness provided me with many laughs.”
Hugh had a wonderful sense of humor. He was quick on the one-liners and had a vocabulary that could raise eyebrows. Describing his experience as a principal of St. Patrick’s Grade School in Camden, NJ, he remarked: “I am the only Brother in the Baltimore District who comes home from school with SNOT on his knees.”
Hugh’s legacy is his commitment to the poor and social justice. St. La Salle, in some of his writings says we Brothers should have a tenderness for the poor. That certainly was true of Hugh. His tour of duty is a testament of his love for the poor. Hugh had the ability to be personally present to an individual, as well as a passion to confront systematic injustice in both society and the church. In spite of the many obstacles that he faced, he was infectiously upbeat.
Again, the Book of Sirach describes him well:
-Give a hearing to the poor man and return his greeting with courtesy.
-Deliver the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor and let not justice be repugnant to you”
Sirach 4: 8,9
Hugh’s whole life was a total commitment to the poor and to social justice. This commitment caused some friction between Hugh and higher powers. He was considered by some to be a maverick.
-In support of Catholic teachers in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for better wages and working conditions, Hugh joined their picket-lines.
-When the Brother President of St. John’s College HS was going to award the President’s Medal to the former Governor of Alabama, George Wallace…… Hugh organized a group of 100 FSCs who threatened to protest in full habit at the hotel. The Brother President got the message.
-In 1971, when Hugh’s attempts to get the Philadelphia City Council to pay more attention to social justice needs in the city and nothing happened…….he ran for a seat on the City Council….he lost.
-To celebrate his 25th anniversary as a Brother, he went to a friend of his who had an Irish pub in North Philly. The guests had to pay to get in and had to pay for their beer and cheesesteaks. All of the proceeds went to the Southwest Philly Community Center. He was one of the founders of the center and served on its Board until just 9 years ago.
-When the Johnson Administration began the War On Poverty, the Diocese of Pittsburgh received a substantial grant for its poverty program. Hugh was put in charge of the program. However, he got very little help from the clerical caste at the Chancery.
-Hugh was a great admirer of Dorothy Day. He was familiar with her writings and her non-violent techniques. They corresponded with each other regularly, when she came to give to give an address at La Salle College, Hugh drove her to the bus station afterward.
Another Irish Proverb says: “Get on your knees and thank the Lord that you are still on your feet.” Hugh had a deep Lasallian Spirituality; the Spirit of Faith and Zeal fit him like a glove. He saw the presence of God in each person he met and especially in the poor and disenfranchised. He was faithful to a daily period of interior prayer and spiritual reading. He had a marked devotion to our Blessed Mother and said the rosary daily. His Spirit of Faith and Zeal empowered him to do many works for the poor while also allowed him to graciously accept his failures. Hugh was an earthy Brother; he was a realist who knew how to manipulate the system. To share a Scotch or a simple dinner with him……I always came away renewed and content. He was my friend, at times my confidant and above all my brother.
The last ten years of Hugh’s active ministry he spent as a chaplain to the Apostolate of the Sea at the Port of Philadelphia. He was responsible for the spiritual welfare of merchant sailors who were mostly Filipinos. He was on-call 24/7. He would borrow a bus or a van from one of our institutions to take them shopping or for a meal and many times he used his own stipend to help them. For his diligence in this ministry, he was awarded the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.
It is fitting that Hugh died on November 11, Veteran’s Day here in the USA. He was not a veteran of military service, but he was certainly a veteran of the war on poverty and systematic injustice. May he rest in peace with Dorothy Day, John Baptist de La Salle, and the Most Holy Trinity.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Hugh Maguire, FSC
1926 – 2020
Born Joseph Patrick Maguire in Philadelphia PA on 12 March 1926
Entered the Ammendale MD Novitiate on 15 November 1954
Received the Religious Habit and Name Gerald Hugh on 1 February 1955
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Wyndmoor PA on 17 August 1961
Died at De La Salle Hall in Lincroft NJ on 11 November 2020
A private interment will take place at De La Salle Cemetery – Beltsville MD
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on a date yet to be determined.
Brother Hugh died peacefully Wednesday afternoon after a brief respite in hospice care.
The District of Eastern North America remembers Brother Hugh with memorial liturgies according to the tradition of the Institute. Through their prayers, communities and individuals entrust Brother Hugh to God’s loving care.
May he rest in peace.
Elkins Park PA
La Salle College (scholasticate)
La Salle High School
Saint Gabriel’s Hall
Diocese of Pittsburgh
West Catholic High School for Boys
Southwest Community Center
La Salle College
De La Salle in Towne
Saint Mary’s Residence School for Boys
De La Salle in Towne
Sacred Heart School
Archbishop John Carroll High School
De La Salle in Towne
De La Salle Vocational
Saint Gabriel’s System
Apostleship of the Sea
Spring Garden Community (resident)
Jeremy House (resident)
West Catholic Community (resident)
La Salle University (resident)
De La Salle Hall (resident)