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Diocese of Covington at 1125 Madison Ave., Covington, KY 41011-3115 US - 'To Serve, Not Be Served'

'To Serve, Not Be Served'



Bishop William A. Hughes, who as the Diocese of Covington’s eighth Bishop led the “People of God” from 1979-1995, died Feb. 7 at Carmel Manor in Ft. Thomas. The Bishop Emeritus of the diocese was 91 years old.

Bishop Hughes resided at Carmel Manor in Ft. Thomas since 2004.

His leadership of the Covington Diocese, under the episcopal motto “To Serve, Not Be Served,” was greatly influenced by the directions of the Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965. His episcopacy was devoted to a fuller understanding and implementation of the Council’s documents, especially those that enhanced the spiritual lives of lay people and their roles in the Church. In the Diocese of Covington these efforts included programs such the Permanent Diaconate Office, Office of Youth Ministry and the Diocesan Pastoral Council. He also reinstituted the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program.

He established the Diocesan Pro-Life Commission (now the Pro-Life Office), Diocesan Communications Office, the Development Office (now the Stewardship and Missions Office) which organized the first Diocesan Annual Appeal in 1984; the Cathedral Foundation, the Committee for Continuing Education of Clergy, and the Lay Personnel Pension Plan administrative commission, among other initiatives. In 1982 the diocese joined the Kentucky Council of Churches.

During his tenure five new parishes and five new missions, most in eastern Kentucky, were established. In northern Kentucky he re-established Our Savior Parish in Covington as a parish (1981) and created St. Timothy Parish, Union (1989).

In 1982 Bishop Hughes issued a pastoral statement entitled “A Vision of Church,” to encourage more active participation of lay people in the Church. The pastoral stressed the importance of priests, religious and lay people working together. In 1985 Bishop Hughes issued a second pastoral, “Not Lords, But Servants.” Its theme was the need for people of the Church to share responsibilities set forth in the Gospels. In 1992 Bishop Hughes, along with Kentucky’s other Bishops, issued “Reverence for Life—The Pursuit of Justice.”


At the national level, Bishop Hughes was an active member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He served in a number of leadership positions, including as a member of the Administrative Board; the Committee on Education (as chair, 1984-1988); the Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry; and the Subcommittee on Spiritual Renewal and Continuing Education (chair). He headed the U.S. Bishops’ Task Force on AIDS (1987) and on behalf of the U.S. Bishops testified before a Congressional subcommittee on education.

Bishop Hughes was active in, even outspoken on, issues of justice and peace. Early in his episcopacy, Bishop Hughes called for reforms in the rental code in the city of Covington; in 1982 he endorsed a law protecting underprivileged people from irresponsible landlords. He joined other Catholic bishops in 1983 in calling for a halt to the nuclear arms race.

He was Bishop when the Diocese of Lexington was created in 1988, carved out of the Diocese of Covington’s 57 counties in central and eastern parts of Kentucky. The Diocese of Covington assumed its present dimensions, 14 counties in an arc across northern Kentucky.

William Anthony Hughes was born in 1921 in Youngstown, Ohio. After preparing for the priesthood at seminaries in Baltimore and Cleveland, he was ordained in 1946. He served as assistant pastor at parishes in the Youngstown Diocese from 1946-1955 and also was a faculty member at two high schools.

In 1956 he was named the founding principal of Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown and served there until 1965. In that year he was appointed superintendent of schools and in 1966 was named vicar of education. In 1956 he was awarded a master’s degree in education from Notre Dame University.

Bishop Hughes was appointed vicar general for the diocese in 1973 and less than a year later was named a bishop by Pope Paul VI and ordained. Bishop Hughes became auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Youngstown until his appointment to Covington in 1979.

“We commend our brother, Bishop William Hughes, to the loving care of our Heavenly Father,” said Bishop Roger Foys, current Bishop of the Diocese of Covington. “After having served the Church as a priest for 66 years and a bishop for 38 years, 16 of those years as Bishop of Covington, he has now gone home to God.

“While we grieve his death, we also take comfort in the knowledge that our true home is in heaven and that those who are faithful to the Lord in this life will live with him forever in the next. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven and from there we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Philippians 3:20)

“Please pray for the repose of his soul.”

Funeral plans are: Most Rev. Roger Foys will preside at the reception of the body at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption at noon on Feb. 14 and at a vigil service at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at noon on Feb. 15 at the Cathedral Basilica, with Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville as the principal celebrant. Most Rev. Robert N. Lynch, former General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and currently Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, will give the homily. The public is welcome.

Interment will be at St. Mary Cemetery, Ft. Mitchell.

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