Deacon Frank Hodges, whose engineering expertise played an integral role in the restoration of Corpus Christi Church in Bolton Hill, died Jan. 11 at age 93.
“It was the church that Frank built,” said Monsignor Richard J. Bozzelli, who was pastor of Corpus Christi from 2000 to 2010, a decade when a series of projects revealed the Gothic underpinnings from its construction in 1880. “He had the vision, resilience and confidence that we could do it.”
Monsignor Bozzelli offered the homily at Deacon Hodges’ Jan. 15 funeral at Corpus Christi. He is now the pastor of St. Bernardine in West Baltimore, which figured in Deacon Hodges’ conversion to the Catholic faith.
According to Addison Hodges, one of the late deacon’s three children, he was raised in Ellicott City, in the Episcopal faith. On drives into Baltimore, Hodges said, his father, starting when he was around age 10, “Would tell his mother, our Nana, that he wanted to become Catholic, especially after seeing the gold tower on St. Bernardine.”
Hodges said that his parents married in 1949, and converted to the Catholic faith. According to Monsignor Bozzelli, that faith journey included Deacon Hodges’ mother also becoming Catholic.
Deacon Hodges was exposed to the faith on a daily basis at Calvert Hall College High School, at its former campus on Cathedral Street, across from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. He was in its class of 1946, when the yearbook said he liked swimming, basketball and baseball, that he aspired to be a chemical engineer and his quote was “Slow, steady, wins the race.”
According to his son, Deacon Hodges earned a full scholarship to study electrical engineering at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His career took him to a series of defense contractors; a number of patents are filed under his name. According to his son, by the early 1990s he was the head staff scientist for Lockheed and Martin Marietta.
Deacon Hodges and his wife, Jean, settled in Bolton Hill and raised their three children, Frank Jr., Jennifer and Addison, at Corpus Christi. Jennifer attended the Institute of Notre Dame, and Addison attended Mount St. Joseph High School.
“My dad would open his door for anyone,” Addison Hodges said. “He gave to all, friends, family, the homeless.”
Deacon Hodges was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1981, and assigned to serve his home parish. In his homily, Monsignor Bozzelli described Corpus Christi having pews that sat atop a wooden platform, causing issues with access; a green carpet concealed mosaics; and faulty heat.
“From the very first time Frank showed me around this church, he already had a completely new vision for its interior,” Monsignor Bozzelli said. “He hated the green carpet and talked about rebuilding a new interior that would be more in keeping with the Gothic revival architecture of the church.
“He described pulling up all of the pews and installing pipes that would radiate heat from underneath a stone or tiled floor, which would finally solve the decades-old heating problem.”
Monsignor Bozzelli said he “threw one obstacle after another to distract him from this crazy idea,” but that Deacon Hodges met every challenge, which included the parish raising $1 million.
“Frank could see beyond a parish community that was barely paying its electric bills to the renovated and rebuilt church we have today,” said Monsignor Bozzelli, who added that Deacon Hodges worked closely with Bob Wissman and the late Joe Shiflett.
“It was a real team,” he said.
On its website, Corpus Christi describes a worship space in which “Many of the mosaics and stained glass windows … are considered some of the finest examples in the world.”
The parish took to opening for tours during Artscape, the annual summer festival which draws hordes to Mount Royal Avenue.
“People would tell me,” Monsignor Bozzelli said, “that there is more artwork in your church than there is in the entire festival.”
He added that Deacon Hodges’ “sense of service was more person to person” than institutional.
Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org
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