When Judith Hughes was asked how she felt receiving the Our Lady Queen of Hope Award at the Diocesan Women’s Conference last month, she replied in a soft voice, with gleaming eyes, and a gentle smile that exuded peace and warmth, with one simple word, “WOW!”
Then she humbly added, “I feel I don’t deserve it. There are so many other women who are doing wonderful and important things who are more deserving than me.”
But in reviewing the list of nominees for this year’s award, as well as the criteria for it, the members of the Diocesan Women’s Conference Committee voted unanimously that Hughes was more than deserving of this recognition. She has been involved in spiritual renewal ministry in the Diocese for nearly 45 years and currently serves in a voluntary capacity as co-director of the Spiritual Renewal Center in Norwich.
“Clearly Judith’s commitment, dedication and work in spiritual renewal over the past 45 years reflect the foundational criteria for this award: commitment to Catholic values, a deep love for our Lord, spiritual leadership and service to the Church,” said Andrea Hoisl, director of the Diocesan Office of Faith Events, which oversees the women’s conference.
Bishop Michael Cote affirmed those same sentiments in formally announcing Hughes as award recipient in a video presented at the virtual conference. “Judith, your devotion to the church and Her many good works has come back to bless you,” he said. “Your dedication is well-known.”
Also in the video, Fr. Darius Dudzik, her pastor at St. Patrick Church, East Hampton, applauded Hughes and called her both a dynamic Catholic and a ‘pillar’ of the church. “Today we gather to celebrate…a more modern pillar of the church, Judy Hughes, who has been giving of herself, her time, her skills, ability, and her love for the church for so many years. She’s definitely one who’s unafraid to love Jesus present in our church today and unafraid to be involved.” He thanked her for living her faith enthusiastically, joyfully, and with commitment, and for “being a ‘Beacon of Hope’ for the future of the church.”
Hughes began her ministry in spiritual renewal working with Fr. Ray Introvigne, director of the Spiritual Renewal Center, in the late 1970s as a volunteer secretary. After the death of her husband Bill in 1984, then Bishop Daniel P. Reilly hired her part-time as associate director of the office and in 1994, Bishop Daniel A. Hart appointed her co-director with Fr. Ray. Together the two grew the ministry giving parish missions, retreats, healing services, spiritual enrichment programs and leading prayer groups throughout the diocese. They have also led spiritual pilgrimages to numerous holy sights in Rome and Israel as well several sights of Marian apparitions in Europe.
In the late 1980s, Hughes became certified as a spiritual director from the Benediction Monastery in Pecos, New Mexico. She continues journeying with people in that role today helping them to enrich their prayer lives and listen to how the Lord is moving and working in their lives. Hughes also served as a member and chair of one national and one international spiritual renewal association. Currently, she is working with another parishioner in revitalizing her parish’s Care and Comfort Ministry to the Bereaved.
“I’ve never sought validation or affirmation for anything I have been involved with. I’ve done it out of love for Him,” she said referring to God. When asked what personal benefit she has derived from the ministry, she replied, “That I know that I am loved by God, and He does take care of me.”
She expressed deep gratitude for the support and encouragement of Fr. Ray who, in addition to being her ministry colleague these past 45 years, she called her ‘best friend.’ Fr. Ray echoed those same thoughts. In the video honoring Hughes at the Women’s Conference, he said to her, “I feel blessed that God brought us together to do His work. When I think back on all the lives you have touched and continue to touch, I know that God is alive and well in our crazy world. Spiritual renewal came to life because the Holy Spirit touched your heart, and you brought that spirit to others.”
Her eyes watering, Hughes said she considers receiving this award as God’s way of saying to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And, choking back tears, added, “And I have tried to be faithful every step of the way.”
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin