We love you, Fr. Hugh

by Chips Guevara


As a kid growing up raised a Catholic, I always felt that the Holy Mass was only for adults. I did not understand it. We were made to memorize prayers, and go to mass every Sunday. At mass, the sermons were almost always catered to adults, so the young ones would just get lost, space out or fall asleep.

Then came Father Hugh. Fr. Hugh loved the youth. I remember that he was one of the first priests that really took the time to make a conversation with us, to really develop friendships with us, shared meals with us, and took the time to explain our faith to us. I still remember he taught us to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary. As he spoke and guided our thoughts, it was only then I realized what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice meant to us, how his suffering paid for our sins. Fr. Hugh did it in a guided meditation, in such a way that did not make us feel guilty or terrible about ourselves, but we felt Jesus Christ’s unconditional love.

He started the Kid’s Mass. It happened every 10:30 AM on Sundays. It was a mass that we all enjoyed tremendously. In fact, as kids, it was the only mass we enjoyed, because Fr. Hugh designed it to be so. He let us handle the music, so we chose the worship music that we enjoyed singing, and so we sang our hearts out. He let us do the commentating and lecturing. Most importantly, he explained the gospel readings in our words. I remember, he would call us all up on the altar to sit around him. It was like a sermon on the mount, but all kids as his audience. He would use our language, our words to explain the readings so we understood and appreciated.

He dared to raise money for a parish center. I felt that it was so important to him that we needed a place to bond as a community, a place to have retreats, or celebrate fiestas. It was a monumental task, with a very likelihood of not making it, but he went ahead and did it because it was important to our church, our faith family. By God’s grace, we succeeded in putting this building up under Fr. Hugh’s leadership. This became the home of Lukers, Antiochers, SYAers, and many other organizations of our parish. It is here that many souls are healed during retreats. It is here where we pray together and for each other. It is here we grew as a real faith family.

Fr. Hugh started SYA and Antioch, but he didn’t stop there. He felt that our Church needed to plant the seed of faith earlier. So he, together with Toby Monsod and some other young adults and Antiochers, started Luke 18. If you read the Luke 18 manual, which is about 4 inches thick, you can see how much thought and effort they had put into it and the result, left probably the deepest imprint of God’s love in me, and hundreds and hundreds of kids thereafter, until today. I joined Luke 18 when I was 13 years old, and this Christ-centered community has probably been the single most important part of my youth as it has been the fountain of God’s love and healing for me.

I always felt that the love that overflowed in the Luke 18, Antioch and SYA communities, overflowed from Fr. Hugh, who really just loved and embraced us all, because he himself was filled with God’s infinite love.

I felt Fr. Hugh truly carried out the mission that God gave St. Francis of Assisi when He said, “Come Build My Church!” Fr. Hugh Zurat certainly built this church. He built a parish where we truly became a faith family.

Fr. Hugh, I know you are up in heaven now. I’ve told you many, many times how grateful I am, how grateful we all are, for all that you did for us, for our church and spreading God’s love in our faith family, San Antonio. We will miss you. We love you Fr. Hugh.

We love you so much Fr. Hugh that when you couldn’t come to our wedding for health reasons, we decided to make you part of our honeymoon!

As published in the October 16 issue of the Parish Bulletin.