About Father Hugo (this page)

The Encounter With Silence Retreat

Father Hugo's Writings

New Editions of Father Hugo's Books

Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker

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The photograph shows Father John Hugo celebrating Mass. The altar boys are two of his nephews.

This photo is copyright © Rosemary Fielding, 2021.

Father Hugo at Mass

Father John Jacob Hugo in his 48 years as a priest served many communities in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Born in 1911, in McKeesport, Pa., Fr. Hugo studied at the parochial schools there, and then went on to St. Vincent Prep School, College, and Seminary, where he was ordained a priest in 1936.

His first years as a priest were spent in teaching at Catholic colleges in the Pittsburgh area. He went on to serve as assistant pastor and pastor in parishes; spent five years as chaplain at the Allegheny County Workhouse and at the Allegheny County Prison; organized street preaching in the city, and established the house that eventually grew into Ozanam Center, the first interracial project of the Pittsburgh Diocese.

He collaborated in preparing the post-Vatican II catechism for adults, The Teaching of Christ, and was appointed by his bishops as chairman for both theological and liturgical committees. In his free time and over the course of decades, he wrote a number of books on a six-day Ignatian retreat. These books Castle of Grace is now republishing.

The retreat, developed by French-Canadian Jesuit Fr. Onesimus Lacouture, brought Fr. Lacouture and Fr. Hugo a measure of both fame and notoriety in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Dorothy Day, founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker, was the most famous proponent of the retreat, writing favorably about it in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. She made the retreat several times, under both Fr. Hugo and other priests. Hundreds of ordinary Catholics also made the retreat and spoke highly of it.

But the retreat had its detractors as well, who decried, in general, its insistence on detachment from the world. Fr. Hugo’s books deal with all aspects of the retreat and the controversy surrounding it.

He was the resident chaplain at Mt. Nazareth convent in Pittsburgh, with the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, at the time of his death in 1985, when he was killed in an automobile accident.

The background photograph shows Pittsburgh as it was at the time of Father Hugo's death in 1985.