- Cullman, Alabama

April 7, 2012

Founder of Daystar House women, children shelter dead at age 90

By Sister Mary Ruth Coffman
Sacred Heart Monastery

CULLMAN — After a long illness, Sister Mary Hughes, O.S.B., died just after midnight on April 4, 2012 with Sister Janet Marie Flemming, prioress, Sister Bernadette Sachs, sub-prioress, and other sisters praying for her.

The second child of Dr. Joseph Walter and Willie Ann Morgan Hughes, Mary had three siblings: Joseph W. Hughes Jr. (deceased), Ann Hughes Barron (Rodney), and Andrew John Hughes. She graduated from Sacred Heart Academy and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan. Later she received a master of science degree in chemistry from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In 1942, Mary entered Sacred Heart Monastery where she received the name Sister Maureen in 1943, upon entering the novitiate. A gifted educator, for more than 20 years, Sister Maureen taught chemistry, physics, and other subjects at John Carroll High School in Birmingham, Pensacola Catholic High School, and Sacred Heart Academy and College.

In 1967, during vast changes resulting from Vatican Council II, Sister received a papal dispensation from her Benedictine vows. In the following years, she taught at several schools in Florida, became for a time the alumnae director of her alma mater, Mount St. Scholastica College, and in 1982, joined two other women in founding Mary and Martha House for homeless women in Ruskin, Fla. In these years she continued her interest in peace and justice issues and in concern for the poor, as well as her dedication to her Catholic faith.

Returning to Cullman in 1989, she sought the legal help of attorney Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie, O.S.B., to establish Daystar House for homeless women and children. For 10 years she was director of Operations at Daystar House, which continues its service to the present.  Later, Mary lived at Benedictine Manor and almost daily joined the Sisters at Sacred Heart in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Realizing that she still yearned for the religious life, Mary re-entered Sacred Heart Monastery in August, 2000, retaining her baptismal name. Since she had previously been a member for more than 20 years, the Formation Team granted her wish to make her Perpetual Profession just two years later in 2002, Sacred Heart Monastery’s Centennial Year. Sister Mary continued her activities in behalf of peace and justice and in Benedictines for Peace. She served the Sacred Heart community in a variety of tasks until she became incapacitated.

Joining the sisters at the funeral will be her sister, Ann Barron; her brother, Dr. Jack Hughes;   brother-in-law, Rodney Barron; and many nephews and nieces; as well as a host of friends from Cullman and Birmingham.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Building Fund, 916 Convent Road, Cullman, AL 35055.