McHugh, Father Alonzo

1955, July 28

Date of Birth: 1891, March 30

January 6, 1956

No Memorial Card is Available

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

Some time ago we informed you of the death of Father Alonzo J. McHugh, of our American province. For most of you this name was, till then, not familiar. I want in these lines briefly to draw for you the picture of this confrere, so deeply Sulpician in spite of an outside ministry far removed from our usual work.

Alonzo J. McHugh was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in the very heart of the Rocky Mountains, on March 30, 1891. In his youth he thought of the priesthood, but lack of financial resources kept him from realizing his dream, and courageously he went to work after leaving high-school training. He was only fifteen years old. After working for seven years he felt ready to put his plan into execution and entered St. Charles College in Baltimore where, despite his age (from the point of view of vocation, almost too advanced) he stayed for five years in order to profit all the more from his secondary studies. At length he entered the old seminary, that of Philosophy, on Paca Street. For his Theology he went to the other side of the United States, to St. Patrick’s Seminary in the Diocese of San Francisco, where he was to remain only a year. He actually came back to St. Mary’s in Baltimore, and finally finished his studies at the Sulpician Seminary, near the Catholic University in Washington. On June 18, 1923 he received priestly ordination from the hands of Bishop McGovern of Cheyenne, who was happy to elevate to priesthood, even for service in another diocese, San Francisco, the first native candidate from Wyoming.

Meanwhile, in the course of his seminary training, Alonzo J. McHugh was attracted to the work of clergy training, and he asked for and obtained from his ordinary permission to enter the Society of St. Sulpice. He made his Solitude from 1925 to 1926 in the mansion – since destroyed by fire – which was very close to St. Charles College, where the Solitaires customarily taught some classes. Father McHugh’s teaching must have been appreciated since at the end of his novitiate he was appointed teacher at that same minor seminary. There he spent seventeen years, and he left a deep impression there on all who knew him. He was before all else conscientious, applying himself with meticulous care to the preparation of the various classes entrusted to him. In chapel, his striving for perfection in the slightest details evidenced itself by a patience in all the repetitions necessary for the faultless carrying out of ceremonies. In the prayers he read, in the meditations he gave, in the rosaries he led, the depth of his religious mind was revealed. Those who knew him admired all the more to whatever extent they were aware that his health was delicate, and that he must often, by sheer force of will, be overcoming the many physical ailments from which he suffered.

In the course of the war, the American ecclesiastical authorities asked all the dioceses and all the communities of priests to furnish chaplains in proportion to their numbers. Father Alonzo J. McHugh made known to his Provincial Superior that he was willing to volunteer for this work. In 1943 he was inducted into the military chaplain corps, in the service of which he devoted his last twelve years.

He was not long in following to England the troops intended to liberate the continent, and he went with them to France in the early days of the invasion. His love for the Society caused him to pay a visit to his Superior General in the Motherhouse as soon, fortunately, as means of communication allowed. Father Boisard and the confreres staying with him were particularly happy to welcome at Issy – even before the end of August, 1944 – a member of the Society who was thus coming to reestablish with Paris the bonds broken four years previous; and to bring, by his mere presence, a whiff of fresh air after the long, sad moral isolation inflicted by the occupation.

The armistice resulted in the departure of the United States Army, and Father McHugh went back with the demobilized units. However, for the work he was doing, he asked to stay in the Army. In 1950 the Korean War sent him again far afield to provide religious support to the soldiers engaged in that new conflict. Because of his age, he was soon recalled to the United States. He was appointed chaplain of the Veterans’ Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was there that God came to look for him to call him back to Himself quite suddenly on July 28, 1955.

His memory is still alive in the hearts of hundreds of priests whom he helped to train in his years of teaching at St. Charles. He is just as much alive in the minds of so many young men torn from their homes by the draft to be thrown onto the field of battle, young men who found in this priest, devoted to their service, a friend, a guide, and a support during their hours of pain and especially in moments of peril. Innumerable are the ones whom his long service as chaplain permitted to prepare for death and who will welcome him to Heaven. In our turn, let us not forget the good servant who did honor to the Church and to the Society. Let us remember him at the Holy Altar, assured that after so often showing his attachment to St. Sulpice during his time among us, he is still our intercessor before God, Whom he now sees face to face.

Please accept, my dear confreres, the assurance of my very affectionate sentiments in Our Lord and Our Lady.

Pierre Girard

Superior General of the Society of St. Sulpice