We love you, Fr. Hugh

by Chips Guevara

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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.

More on Fr. Hugh…

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When we newly arrived at San Antonio, Fr. Hugh was there. He was born in East Chicago, a few miles from where I was born and that immediately connected us, making us feel at home. How touched we were when the Coro sang Welcome to the Family as we attended mass for the first time at San Antonio. We attended his Parish Renewal sessions, which deepened our appreciation of the faith tremendously. – Tom and Kathy Kral

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Father Hugh was such a special man.  Our parish was never the same after he became the parish priest. He was able to bring out the best in the parishioners by allowing them to lead. He was a true Franciscan. He led through humility. He will truly be missed. I can still hear his laughter in my ears and feel his big hugs. He was a man truly full of love – God’s love.

– Mia Fischer

 

For more tributes to Fr. Hugh, please check the Fr. Hugh Zurat tag.

My Tribute To Fr. Hugh After His Death, On His Birthday, Oct. 19.

by Amelita D. Guevara

I came to live in Forbes immediately after marrying Cards Guevara in 1962. With a Master’s degree in Music and growing up in a choir at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Quezon City, I was asked by my aunt, T. Diding Panlilio to organize and conduct the choir at San Antonio Church.

In 1980, Fr. Hugh was Parish Priest. I am what I am in the Coro because of Fr. Hugh. He believed in me and allowed me to grow both musically and spiritually as he sat down with me to teach me how to plan the liturgy week after week.

One Easter vigil Mass, I decided to hire three trumpets to accompany us with the organ to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah without telling Fr. Hugh. Right after the service, he said “From now on, there will be no Easter without trumpets!” Our singing graduated from the three trumpets to a 20-piece orchestra through time.

We became a weekly choir after we joined a Festival of Choruses at Union Church. We were then 18 strong only and mostly volunteers with no professional background. I know that we made hardly a squeak then, but Fr. Hugh was all praises for us at the Parish Bulletin the following Sunday.

Fr. Hugh used to celebrate the Coro Mass weekly through almost all of the 10 years he was our Parish Priest. Then on the last year, he started giving us away to other priests. It broke my heart each time we sang and he was not our Celebrant. He never said a word on why he was doing this.

Finally, the day came when he was ending his term as Parish Priest. He was transferred to Sta. Ana. Most of us visited him there as often as we could. Several of us have visited him in the United States. One time our whole family went to visit him, had lunch with him in Wisconsin. Then we went to visit Fr. Julian as he lay there half paralyzed. They said he hasn’t said a word for weeks. But he did when we surprised him. He waved his hand away when he told him that Jem our youngest son, was going to become a Jesuit.

One of our last attempts to see him was when Chips and Akiko were going to get married in 2009. He had planned on coming to concelebrate the wedding ceremony with Akiko’s friend Minister in New York, but he had internal bleeding and couldn’t make it. From then on it was a downward descend in his health concerns.

Rest in God, dear Fr. Hugh. Your treasure chest is full of the goodness you have spread in our midst and God sees it all. We know you are now receiving His abundant rewards.

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

Remembering Fr. Hugh

by Bernadette Andulte

Fr. Hugh R. Zurat, OFM, a shy and reluctant parish priest was appointed in 1979. He desired Santuario de San Antonio Parish to be known as a “Church of Prayer” so he started the renovation of the church altars and organized more parish organizations. There were many first time activities such as the Buling-Buling, Parish Fiesta, Octoberfest, and the Francisfest Concert.

In 1982, parishioners Mark and Mary Jo Pirola encouraged Fr. Hugh to organize the Single Young Adults, Antioch and Luke 18 weekends, tapping the youth of our parish. Thanks to Jolly Gomez, the youth programs till now draws young parishioners and non-parishioners to be involved.

In 1983, the Parish Renewal Experience Program was introduced to organize the married couples and adults of our parish. As an ordinary Church employee and as an insider-observer, I would say it was the most significant program that drew and motivated the parishioners to spiritual upliftment and parish involvement, which I encountered myself.

The PRE would not have been successful without Fr. Hugh. He laid the groundwork that became the foundation of the parish christian relationships and programs centered on prayer and love. I myself became more involved with the parish activities and did not mind working beyond my working hours.

I remember the themes that motivated the parishioners to respond in ONENESS were “We are Family and the Parish Family that prays together… plays together”.
Fr. Hugh Zurat, OFM started to bloom in his pastoral ministry. Since then till 1989 the parish became alive, more involved, more loving and all smiles. The parishioners were so inspired not only because of the activities but because of Fr. Hugh’s charisma, dedication and leadership, devoting his time 24/7 to his pastoral ministry. Up to now, the euphoria of being together and united as a parish is still vivid in my mind! How I wish we could have those times back.
When Fr. Hugh left, the parish was like a ghost town. It was so quiet. Fr. Hugh was the magnet as he became a pastor, confidant and a friend.

Today, I see the parishioners growing as well as being active with all kinds of activities, especially with their outreach programs. I am proud to say that what I love most about SSAP are the parishioners, their untiring support of their time and their generous heart is unquestionable, their faith bonded in unity, follows Jesus. Indeed, Christ is the center of all relationships, activities and programs in SSAP. He removed the barriers that so often separate the parishioners. He drew them together in true friendship and love. To God be the glory in SSAP!

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

Fr. Hugh

by Mike Yuson

I met Fr. Hugh when I joined Luke18. He was a jolly fellow and he was always smiling and you couldn’t help but feel welcome whenever you would see him.

When I joined Antioch it was he who heard my very first serious confession. During my confession, I felt that I was talking to God himself. His warmth made me open up completely. After my confession he stood up and gave me the tightest hug, the feeling of which I will never forget.

During those times, there was really not much to do in Manila and the kids didn’t really have a place to hang out, he welcomed us to church. Every day during summer the church grounds was filled with kids playing and it became our hang out. We were noisy and rowdy but you would never hear him complain or get mad at us even if it was past midnight. He would go out of his room and just smile and wave at us from the second floor and watch what we were doing. We would even stay in church until the early morning just hanging out.

I remember one night, we were bored and decided to go to the back of the convento to go ghost hunting, it was still a huge mango orchard. While we were “hunting” it was pitch black and suddenly there was a ball of light at one corner and it started chasing us. Of course we were running and screaming in fear and then we heard someone laughing. It was Fr. Hugh from the second floor hiding and shining a flashlight to scare us. He then invited us to go to the kitchen for a midnight snack.

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

My Eulogy for Fr. Hugh

by Jolly Gomez

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Fr. Hugh was the priest who turned me on to love for the church and ignited my passion to spread God’s love. He was the one who started Luke 18, Antioch, SYA and Parish Renewal. Like a humble servant of God, he died quietly without fanfare or fuss, in His loving embrace.

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around can warm up in the glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it. You’ll spread His love to everyone you’ll want to pass it on.” – Fr. Hugh Zurat, OFM

This is one of the most memorable songs of any member of the San Antonio youth through the years.

Fr. Hugh Zurat was the “spark.” He served the parish in the early 80’s. I was in my early twenties, trying to figure out my faith in a parish I grew up in. Fr. Hugh Zurat was around the age of Fr. Reu and Fr. Joel today. He was a young parish priest who wanted to make an impact in the faith journey of the parishioners from the most affluent part of the Philippines.

The simplest “spark” was done when he introduced us to the Body of Christ. A concept that we learned in our catechism books but only experienced it in San Antonio through Fr. Hugh. The Parish Renewal Weekends led to so much activity in the parish – the spark became a flame, which is still burning today.

Fr. Hugh was a gifted preacher but his priestly power was in private confessions in which you felt as if you were the only one that mattered to him at that time. I once had a confession with him wherein I expressed my apprehensions in being a parish leader because I was young and inexperienced. His penance to me was to read Jeremiah, which is about a young preacher who had his doubts. “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone to whom I send you. You must say everything that I order you to say. Do not be afraid of the people to whom I send you. I am with you. And I will rescue you’, declares the LORD.””

This reading has been burned in my heart for life. It was a small spark from Fr. Hugh that has led to an eternal flame of passion and love for our parish particularly the youth. We are now on Weekend 66 for both Luke and Antioch and Weekend 32 for SYA. The “spark” into a flame is passed on and is oh so bright and beautiful.

Knowing Fr. Hugh, his modesty will not want us to say all these things about him. I ask everyone then to honor him by KEEPING THE FLAME. Let us continue to love our parish and the Body of Christ with all our heart, soul and mind.

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