The Columban Director in Britain, recently re-appointed for a second three year term on 23rd November 2018, is Fr Peter Hughes. Peter was born in Co. Galway, Ireland in 1951. He studied for the priesthood in St. Columban’s Seminary in Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath, and was ordained priest in April, 1977.
That same year he went to work as a missionary in Chile. In Chile he mainly worked in poor parishes in the city of Santiago and for a brief period in Valparaiso on the Chilean coast. He was founder and parish priest of the first parish in Chile named after St. Columban in a poor area in Santiago.
He worked in Chile during most of the dictatorship of General Pinochet which lasted from 1973 until 1989. Like all the Columban missionaries during that period in Chile he was involved in the defence of the poor against the oppressive policies of the dictatorship of General Pinochet. Because of his work with the poor he witnessed at first hand the abuse and hardship that they suffered. Some of his Columban colleagues were expelled from Chile during that time because of their work for human rights. A priest in a neighbouring parish was shot and killed by the security forces as he read the Bible in his bedroom.
He served as Regional Director of the Columban missionaries in Chile for seven years. During that time the Columbans in Chile began to welcome local Chileans as members of the Society of St. Columban. Around that time they also welcomed the first Lay Missionaries to Chile.
He served on the Superior General’s council for three years from 1991 to 1994. In this role, he had the opportunity to visit every Columban mission throughout the world and see the ways in which Columbans engage in the mission of Jesus Christ in very different and changing circumstances.
After having spent 27 years in Chile he was recalled to Britain to help in mission promotion and fundraising . He also is the Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation (JPIC) coordinator for the Columbans in Britain. Since 2010 he was Vice-Regional Director of the Columbans in this country.