Appreciation: Fr Pat Hudson, OSM

‘Through six decades of Franciscan missionary life, “Padre Patricio” worked through disturbances and coups d’état in San Salvador, Bolivia, and other unstable places’

Fr Hudson adored Siberia, where he loved his flock so much he quipped that coming home to Dublin would be his real exile.

Fr Hudson adored Siberia, where he loved his flock so much he quipped that coming home to Dublin would be his real exile.

 

Anyone who ever met Fr Pat Hudson (OFM) came away in no doubt about what he thought about dictators, corruption, abuse, poverty, politicians, sin, thugs, death squads, American interference – and any other topic he’d become an expert on, as a Franciscan missionary working in poverty-stricken parishes all over the world.

But very few people ever doubted Fr Pat.

On redemption, he left them especially in no doubt, his point being that only by contrition and confession could you win it. Clearly, he had already heard it all by the time he ended three score years of priestly service by hearing confessions at Adam and Eve’s Franciscan church on Merchant’s Quay in Dublin.

His speaking, just like his writing, was very direct and clear, and always retained a rural twang. He was born into a south Dublin working-class family in 1936. Strapping and energetic, he enlisted at the Curragh, got bored, and then survived the harsher regime of his Galway novitiate with customary stoicism and strenuous athletics, especially rowing.

He spoke a lot about the earliest days of his faith in Galway, where even in snow novices wore sandals minus socks, and were only allowed four garments – vest and shorts, top and pants. This harsh training came in useful in Siberia and at the top of the Andes, where he was planning road-building projects with his fellow friars.

‘Padres’

I had met “Padre Pat” while I was on sabbatical in Bolivia. I’d asked the janitor in La Paz Cathedral “Are there any Irish priests here?” He pointed at a door marked “Padres” and behind it was the tall Wicklow man, who was mapping out projects with fellow Franciscans. Their outfit was called “Oscar” and it was formed to link remote Amazonian communities with the Andean cities by building highways from mountains to jungles. It was manned by volunteers and fellow priests.

Truly he was a worker priest. Through six decades of Franciscan missionary life, “Padre Patricio” worked through disturbances and coups d’état in San Salvador, Bolivia, and other unstable places, annoying authority figures, and occasionally getting threatened with expulsion. He acquired many more languages along the way.

He was a born teacher and a polyglot. After he was transferred to the provincial Curia in Rome at the Vatican, he was their poly-lingual interpreter, translating indigenous Quechua, Aymara, German, and Italian. Cantonese was the first language he learned after Irish and Latin, along with Russian, and of course his Spanish was perfect. He wrote to fellow priests in Irish to keep communications secret.

Banishment to the steppes

He adored Siberia, where he loved his flock so much he quipped that coming home to Dublin would be his real exile – he was the only person he knew who pined for banishment to the steppes. But back in Dublin, he found Russian students to teach English at his home church on the quays.

He also began writing his memoirs, at the request of his order. They make for very gripping reading, yet give hope for the future. At one point, I jokingly nicknamed his wild adventures “Troublesome Priest”. He rejoined swiftly by e-mail, saying he disliked that word “troublesome.”

“I just want the simplicity of the love of God for us all to be at the fore, and how simple it is to love Him.” It was to be his last e-mail – he’d managed a last draft of his memoirs before he was too weak to write.

Fr Pat Hudson died on July 30th. He is survived by his sisters Maura, Olive, Elaine, and brothers Sean, Eamonn and Sonny, and their spouses, cousins, friends and his Franciscan Fraternity.

It’s tempting to say they don’t make them like that any more – and I really don’t think they do.

– ELGY GILLESPIE