Reverend Hugh Donald MacDonald, “Father Hughie D”, passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 31, 2020 at the Port Hawkesbury Nursing Home in his 95th year. Born on a farm in Springfield, Antigonish County on Sunday, January 27, 1925, he was the son of Augustine (Gusty) and Catherine (Katie) MacDonald. He was a true son of Springfield as it was always his first choice when going for a drive. He could talk about who lived where and there was always a story.
Father Hughie’s life in Eastern Nova Scotia impacted many people. His philosophy of life was deeply rooted in his faith and exemplified by inclusiveness and compassion. Everyone was important. Religious affiliation, financial need, social status or personal failure did not diminish his steadfast belief in people. His confidence in the goodness of everyone was a magnificent example of the guiding principle of his Christian faith, “love your neighbor”. His phone rang day and night, and he always had time to help someone. He listened, he counseled, he encouraged, he prayed for others and he brought peace and solace to many. His grocery purchases were often not for himself, and no hitchhiker was ever left standing at the roadside. The Tim’s coffee visits were an extension of his ministry and a characteristic of his approachability. He liked his radios and cars – the cars that frequently went a little faster than they should have, but his quick confession and contrition usually merited a warning. His contagious good humor, his constant smile and his trademark hearty laugh will remain in the hearts of those who knew him. He will be dearly missed but we can find comfort in the old saying, “Don’t cry because it is over; smile because it happened.”
Father Hughie is survived by his nieces, Ann K. Amadon, four grandnephews and one grandniece, all of Thunder Bay, Ontario and Jean C. (Ralph) Paquette, one grandniece and one grandnephew of South Burlington, Vermont and eleven great-grandnieces and nephews, all of whom he dearly loved. He was predeceased by his sister, Margaret and her husband, Stephen “Dan A.” MacDonald of Iona, Cape Breton.
Hughie D. attended the one room school in Springfield and then completed his high school education in Mabou, Inverness County. He graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in 1948. In the fall of that year, he entered Holy Heart Seminary in Halifax and was ordained as a Catholic priest by Bishop John R. MacDonald at St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Antigonish on June 07, 1952.
Father Hughie began his priestly ministry as a curate at St. Peter’s Parish in St. Peter’s, followed by assignment as curate to Rev. Duncan Rankin at St. Columba Parish in Iona and the missions of Washabuck, MacKinnon’s Harbour, Baddeck and Nyanza. Two years later he became assistant to Monsignor Patrick Nicholson at St. Joseph’s Parish in Sydney and from 1957-1966 served as pastor at St. Peter’s Parish, Larry’s River with responsibility also for Charlos Cove. During that time, he renovated the church, built a new glebe house and undertook significant improvements at the parish of Charlos Cove. His subsequent ministries were as pastor St. Joseph’s Parish, Port Hawkesbury 1966-1977, pastor St. Stella Maris Parish, Pictou 1977-1980, a sabbatical year of study at St. Paul University, Ottawa 1980-81, French language study in St. Pierre and Miquelon in 1981, pastor Notre Dame de L’Assumption Parish, Arichat 1981-1989, pastor St. John the Baptist Parish, River Bourgeois 1989-1991, returning to Arichat from 1991-1998 and his last assignment as pastor Stella Maris Parish, Creignish in 1998. He retired from active ministry on leaving Creignish in 2018.
Over the years, Father Hughie was extensively involved in community building as a founding member of the Cape Breton Addiction Centre in Sydney and he continued to serve on its board for many years. He was a board member of Recovery House (Addiction Centre) in Antigonish and a Member of The Nova Scotia Drug Dependency Board. He served on the Personnel Board of the Diocese of Antigonish, the Fisheries Appeal Board of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Board of Governors of CJFX Radio in Antigonish, the Board of Governors of St. Francis Xavier University, the Board of Governors of Saint Martha’s Hospital, the Board of Governors of the Strait Richmond Hospital and as Dean of priests in the Richmond Deanery.
In 1996 Father Hughie was honored with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award that recognized “the fine example set by these special volunteers whose compassion and charitableness are such a part of the Canadian character”. He was acknowledged for his work helping people with substance-abuse problems, his role in the establishment of a local hospital detoxification unit and bringing people in need to the unit, day or night, as well as raising funds for local halfway houses, holding weekend retreats, and offering his counsel to those in need. In 2012 he was recognized as a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, an award that honoured “significant contributions and achievements by Canadians”.
Throughout his life Father Hughie had a great many friends. In his retirement he received a warm welcome at Parkland Antigonish and in that supportive environment was able to maintain those friendships and make new ones. His phone continued to ring, and he entertained many visitors. In September, he moved to the Port Hawkesbury Nursing Home where he received excellent care and was fondly referred to by the staff as “our local celebrity!”
There will be no wake due to provincial Covid restrictions. A funeral Mass took place Thursday, January 07, in St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Antigonish with Most Reverend Brian Dunn officiating.
Burial was in the priest section of St. Ninian’s Parish Cemetery, Antigonish.
Funeral arrangements are under the care and direction of Dennis Haverstock Funeral Home, Port Hawkesbury. Words of comfort may be forwarded to the family at: www.haverstocks.com