Fr. Gerry Hughes.
When the Leadership Team met on 17th Feb, it was the first gathering without founder member, inspiration and friend Fr. Gerry Hughes, SJ, who has stepped down to take care of his health. I think it is fair to say that he left two large gaps in the team on Saturday. Firstly, his inspiration. Anyone who has attended a course, studied his writings or been in a meeting with Gerry will know what I mean when I say the rather too-easily used ‘intellectual giant’ isn’t nearly adequate to describe what it is to have the privilege of Gerry’s mind shedding light on your own thoughts and understanding. There are, no doubt, people who have the same intellectual capacity as Gerry, (although I am very hard put to name many), but where intellectual giants have the tendency to look down on people from their lofty height, so that their knowledge can make you feel inadequate, Gerry has a wonderful gift of sharing his insights allowing you (individual or group) to tag along to reach new insights.
The second large gap is Gerry as friend. He is ‘good company’ that goes far beyond the warmth, humour and good conversation of companionship, (in these he gives Glaswegians a good name); people who have been in conversation with Gerry will know of his genuine interest in any aspect of what it means to be a person that you happen to bring to the conversation, be that the joys or troubles of daily life, insights or struggles of your thoughts, or the ups and downs of your relationship with God. In all, Gerry is guide, mentor, pastor and friend. A particular sign that Gerry is indeed good company is his wonderful ability to ‘tell you straight’ when your thinking and your actions are either somewhat casual or don’t quite match up. There is no condemnation, but there is challenge: Gerry will accompany individuals or groups through steps that are faltering or misdirected in a manner that is perceptive, supportive and direct. You can take the Jesuit out of Glasgow, but you can’t take the Glasgow out of the Jesuit!
Apart from referring to the meeting on Saturday, you will notice that this is all in the present tense. Gerry’s inspiration was not a gap, nor will it be in the future. Not only has he assured us that he will happily continue to be in communication with us and to serve ACTA in anyway he can, but Gerry’s inspiration is part of the fabric of ACTA. As one of the founding members, his insight into the nature of the Church, and his passionate service of it, led to the initial meeting and has been a driving force and inspiration for so many ACTA members since then.
On behalf of all ACTA members, may I offer heartfelt thanks to you, Gerry, for your inspiration, wisdom and friendship which have been such a force for good amongst us, and assure you of our prayers and good wishes for the next stage of your journey.