by John Fitzgerald
WHEN MARIE REILLY and Anthony McHugh met there was high hope of a long and loving life together, the loving was there but long lived was not to be. Anthony left this world when his children were still young. He left behind a dedicated, courageous and fearless mother for his five children: Edward, Phillip, John, Anthony and last, but by far not the least, Maryann Patricia.
Marie worked hard, rising early each morning to travel to a job in another borough. She left the house with the certainty that she was doing the right thing for her children. Her four sons and daughter have proved her confidence in her children was justified.
While the boys made certain the McHugh name would live on for a few more generations, it is Maryann that has reached a milestone to be celebrated this year. The now-Sister Maryann McHugh has been a member of the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph for 50 years.
Raised in Bay Ridge, she attended a Catholic elementary school. In a foreshadowing of her life to come, she attended Bishop Kearney H.S., an all-girls high school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, where she was greatly influenced by the Sisters. One particular friend, mentor and later sponsor to the community was Sister Mary McKenna, C.S.J. Sister Mary’s friendship and mentoring lasted until Sister Mary passed to her eternal reward last year.
After school, Maryann went to work in the financial world. But it was the constant callings that led her to join the community. She went on to Notre Dame College of Staten Island on scholarship; Brentwood College, where she received a bachelor’s degree; Fordham University for her first master’s degree and Xavier University for her second master’s degree.
Sister Maryann’s forte has been, and is, pastoral ministry as evidenced by her assignments: St. Matthew School, Crown Heights; Our Lady of Charity parish; Bedford Stuyvesant; St. Francis Xavier, Park Slope; pastoral ministry at the Retreat Center in Sag Harbor; religious education director at St. John Nepomucene, Bohemia; pastoral ministry at Christ the King, Springfield Gardens, St. Margaret Mary Church, Long Island City and St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights.
In each of the assignments she has left a lasting legacy of her very strong gifts: a positive attitude of God and life, a sense of humor, deep listening, wisdom and compassion and a deep and unending love of God and neighbor.
Her work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Sister Maryann has been honored by Fordham University for her service to the Church with the “Sapientia et Doctrina” (Wisdom and Learning) Award. Her community has trusted her by making her a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph Leadership Team.
She serves as chairperson of the board of directors for Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy, Jamaica. She also serves on the board of directors for Providence House, and has served on the board of directors of Fontbonne Hall Academy. In her spare time she is also a marriage tribunal advocate.
At St. Joan of Arc, we spend many Wednesday nights together with an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) group. And though I am there to help, I learn more than I can give. Sister Maryann has a true gift of discernment. She easily views life in either desolation or consolation. She helps everyone she meets to decide if they want a life that continually moves away from God (desolation) or a life that continually moves in God’s direction (consolation).
We were proud to honor her at the parish earlier this year, and when she celebrates her 100th year as a member of her community, we will list all of the other stuff she does.
Contributing to this column was Sister Alice Rademacher, O.P. a longtime friend of Sister Maryann.
Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and a lay pastoral minister.