By Natashya Fernandez
It has been an extraordinary 60 years for Father Don Hughes OMI who recently celebrated his sixtieth anniversary of ordination on 15 September 2017. And, at 85 years of age, he is still proving to be a great witness to Christ and the priesthood.
The Mass was celebrated by Provincial of the Oblates from Melbourne, Fr Peter Daly OMI and concelebrated with Fr Don Hughes OMI together with his friend and priest Fr Kevin Davine OMI and Frs Asad Gill, Michael McMahon, Dave Shelton, Tony Colbert and John Sherman.
Fr Hughes was born in Fremantle in 1932 and baptised at then-St Patrick’s Church in Fremantle, now St Patrick’s Basilica.
Growing up near the church and coming from a staunch Catholic family played an integral part in him joining the priesthood.
“We took part in everything that happened in our Parish. The Church was run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), a religious congregation of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church under the patronage of Our Lady.
“They are essentially missionaries who work in many countries and are available for apostolic work. It was the Oblates first foundation in Australia.
“I grew up knowing many of the priests there and was involved in the Church as an altar boy and helped out with all the activities,” he said.
When Archbishop Launcelot Goody, who was Archdiocesan Vocations Director at the time came around and spoke at his school, Fr Hughes said that this was the turning point for him wanting to become a priest.
“I went to St Charles Seminary at Guildford and was there for four years of secondary schooling and did three years of philosophy.”
However, after seven years, Fr Hughes left St Charles Seminary to join the Oblates.
Little did he know at the time that he would return to St Charles Seminary in 2004 as the Seminary Rector.
“Being brought up with the Oblate priests in Fremantle, the order appealed to me a lot and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to join them.”
Fr Hughes had to travel to Ireland as there wasn’t an Oblate Seminary in Australia at that time. He joined the Seminary and lived there for four years, studying Theology.
Ordained in 1957 and returning to Australia a few years later, Fr Hughes recall travelling around Australia and New Zealand serving in the community and the parishes.
Staying true to the principals of the Oblates, he carried himself with the dignity of one consecrated to the life of service to Christ and his people.
His first role was as Assistant Parish Priest in Sorrento, Victoria, and he later held various positions of Rector, Parish Priest and teacher in various Oblate foundations.
In 1966, under the guidance of the Oblate Provincial Fr Cagney OMI and Fr D McCarthy OMI, Fr Hughes became the founding father and the first Rector of Mazenod College, a College for Boys that was established in the Perth Hills.
Reminiscing about his 25, 50 and 60th anniversaries, Fr Hughes said that he is blessed to have had a wonderful life.
“My 60th celebrations took place last week on Friday, the 15th. We celebrated it with mass with many of the priests from the Oblates and my family. The Mass was celebrated at St Patrick’s Basilica in Fremantle.
And, even though he is retired, Fr Hughes still gets called out to celebrate Mass, visit the sick and take part in various appointments.
“It’s been an extraordinary 60 years. It’s gone so quickly. During these 60 years I have been blessed.
“It’s been a wonderful life, I have good health and I am happy to undertake various tasks for as long as I live,” he concluded.