Born Francis Kugelman on November 9, 1908 in Weehawken, New Jersey, he was the son of Emil and Madeline Behr Kugelman. His early Catholic formation took place at St. Michael’s in West Hoboken, the Passionist parish. He completed elementary school in 1920 and entered to newly opened Holy Cross Preparatory School in Dunkirk, New York. After five years, he entered the Passionist novitiate at Our Mother of Sorrows Monastery, West Springfield, Massachusetts. On August 15, 1928 he pronounced his vows and took the name Richard. He was ordained a priest in Scranton, Pennsylvania on April 28, 1934 – the Feast of St. Paul of the Cross.
After ordination he was sent on to study Sacred Scripture in Rome, Italy. In 1936 he received his Licentiate degree in Theology from the Angelicum and his Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1938. But in 1938, due to the threat of war, he had to return to the United States. He began teaching at St. Michael’s Theologate, Union City, New Jersey and when the Theologate joined St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York in 1964 he joined the faculty there.
Father Kugelman was a staunch advocate of up-grading Passionist studies, especially biblical studies. He was a supporter of the 1943 biblical encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. Father Kugelman loved Scripture and tried to bring that to the classroom. At the same time in the 1950s he was involved in the Spanish Apostolate in Union City, New Jersey. Still Scripture studies provided him with the reading ability in nine ancient and modern languages and he could speak in five.
During 1950, Dr. John Suermann, the house doctor for the Passionists in Union City told Father Kugelman that he had leukemia. At that time the doctors at Sloane-Kettering saw arsenic as the only cure. With treatment he continued and lived beyond all medical expectations.
He retired form St. John’s University in 1974. For six years he had served as chair of the Theology Department. As he got older it was common for him to get so excited in class that he could not hear the interference from his own hearing aid. From 1974 to 1978 he taught at Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island. In the summer from 1967 to 1970 he taught at Marywood College, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
He was a charter member of The Catholic Biblical Association (CBA). He served as president from 1972 to 1973 and was on the Board of Trustees for the CBA. He contributed nine articles to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. He was an editor and member of the Board of Translators for the New American Bible. He wrote the commentary on I Corinthians for the Jerome Biblical Commentary. He also wrote the Commentary on the Letters of James and Jude for the Glazier New Testament Message Series. He was a member of the editorial board of the Biblical Theology Bulletin and the July 1982 edition was dedicated to his memory.
For many years he was a member of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue for the Diocese of Brooklyn and was an active member of the Mariological Society of America. In 1978 Father Kugelman retired to Our Lady of Florida Retreat in North Palm Beach. Finally he died after a sustained illness. Noted United States Catholic Scripture Scholar Father Raymond E. Brown, S.S. preached the funeral homily at Immaculate Conception Monastery Church, Jamaica, New York.