Fr. Richard (Dick) McHugh S.J. Ph.D.
My mentor, my guru, my teacher, my friend.
Dick was my mentor, my guide, my inspiration, my guru, my ode. But these few words are not enough to describe what he means to me.I forever am in awe of his magnetic personality, his intelligence, his calm, his composure, how he dealt with relations. I always told him I want to age as gracefully as him... and he would simply smile. He was an ocean of gratitude. He taught me to know what my answers are and to accept myself the way I am.
As I was preparing myself mentally for that long session, Dick McHugh walked in. Attired in a loose blue t-shirt and white pyjama, feet cladded in sports shoes; he walked in with a book in hand. I was seated in the fourth row, enthused and eager to train from my master, a subject that was completely alien to me.
The tall man that Dick McHugh was, I reached but his shoulder and looked into his deep blue eyes that glued me for a moment; such was the aura he carried. I wish never to have left his side. I did about 12 courses with Dick (all levels of NLP & Gestalt). The countless hours in the presence of my master helped me to know more about him or may I say more about me.
We began talking about his early life. He hailed from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
“The good old days. I was born with a sweet tooth, as a kid I stocked my room with oatmeal biscuits, you could call me a hoarder.” He went on to share instances from his childhood, laughing and participating whole heartedly in the conversation.
To pursue knowing him further, I asked, “When was Earth blessed with your presence?” He laughed and said ever so humbly, “Anil, my birth month is March and date 11th, 1930.”
“1930!” I exclaimed “So you are 80, Now!”
“Hahaha”, he went. ”Age is but a number”, replied the wise man.
"Language by itself doesn't have any meaning unless it is part of your experiential system."
“So Dick, why India”? I asked.
“We were 32 fellow Deacons into the final year of priesthood. We were asked which of us would like to practice in India, 30 of us replied in positive. A fellow Deacon and I were chosen.”
He continued, “I was both scared and delighted at the same time. India was foreign to me, new country, new space, new culture, and new people. I was ordained to the priesthood in Jamshedpur, India, on March 24, 1960 and this is where my journey in India began.”
I went on to serve as Vicar and later as pastor at St. Xavier’s Church in Chaibasa, a town in Jharkhand.”
“The boys in the school were mischievous; but I loved working with children. I taught them Math, English and religion. We even played basketball!”
Recalling an instance, he laughed, saying “Children there would say angrezi samajh nahi aati.” Education stands confined to books, knowledge comes with being practical, usable and realistic. The Jesuits worked towards ensuring that hostels were well equipped with classrooms, dorm room and a basketball court.
His command over Hindi was impeccable. He learnt the language in 1951 at Dhanbad, Jharkhand.
I wanted to learn what got Dick intrigued in NLP, and so I asked.
He answered, “NLP came later; I was introduced to the subject in 1980. Before which I returned to the States and served at the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church in Woodstock, before earning my Ph.D. in Psychology from the Union Institute of Cincinnati.”
His mentors were John Grinder, Richard Bandler, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, David Grdon, Michael Lebeau, Scout Lee Gunn and Todd Epstein. Connirae and Steve Andreas, Linda Sommerand Charlotte Bretto were teachers with whom Dick studied NLP.
Steve, John Grinder and Carol Lankton taught him hypnosis.
"The unconscious is always positive. Allow the unconscious to surface."
I was curious to learn about the Vipassana on which the principle of awareness in NLP is based. Fr. Dick held Goenkaji and his teachings of Vipassana in great admiration. It enabled him to experience the mystic, magic, and gain a deeper understanding of prayer.
Fr. Anthony de Mello was an integral part of both Dick McHugh’s life and Sadhana Center. He took a course by Tony at the Sadhana Institute for Pastoral Counselling. “Tony was a good man, a noble friend and my boss,” he recalled.
The sudden demise of Fr. Anthony changed the course of Dick’s mission and he returned to the USA where he studied and worked hard to get his PhD in Clinical Psychology. NLP became his mission and he gave seminars and taught all around the United States, Ireland and India.
"Love is 100% participation in life. Know that the one you love will be taken away from you; know that if you love, your heart will be broken. Also, know that everything you hold dear is changing,
is impermanent and will die." - Fr. Richard 'Dick' McHugh S.J. PhD.
The study of NLP gave him an in-depth analysis to an approach on Mental Health. It helped him get a better understanding of his background, own psychology, physical environment and most importantly religion.
“Anil, NLP gave me clarity, it came as calm, mentally equipping me to deal with things in a healthy manner. Prayer to me was illusive up until the time NLP came in and the Ignition retreat that we Jesuits attend formed the foundation of prayer. I draw my sense of inspiration from Buddhism, Judaism and Sufi tradition, integrating these beliefs and learning made me feel at ease. It helped me align to my own personal beliefs and this I share with everybody”, Dick shared.
It was around this time that Dick had the idea of what NLP was, but from the knowledge point of view. He wanted to dive deeper into the subject and decide to practice and impart the knowledge to all around.
Fr. Dick and Gestalt
Dick was the only Gestaltian alive; I knew.
“Gestalt taught me that the resources necessary to find the answers are within one’s self. Using this understanding I not only resolved myself,
but I went ahead into my own journey of counseling, therapy and everything I know of today” said Dick.
Fr. Dick in the Session's Room
He began his day early, taking time to meditate and reframe. Before every session, he would relax to retrieve balance.
Dick McHugh came across as sensitive in his sessions but he was a magician when it came to relations be it with his parents, friends or batch mates. Even those that found talking about feelings and emotions difficult would melt at his empathy. He displayed honesty to the purest level known. Humility from a man to this level, left each of us in the session’s room with the belief of him being above human.