August 21, 1921-July 22, 2018

Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen died in the peace of the Lord he loved and served so well on Sunday, July 22, 2018, at his home in Helena, Montana, surrounded by members of his family.

Archbishop Hunthausen was the last remaining American bishop to have participated in the Second Vatican Council. He attended all four sessions from 1962 to 1965. From 1962-1975, he served as Bishop of Helena, Montana, and from 1975-1991, as Archbishop of Seattle.

Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen was born to Anthony and Edna Hunthausen in Anaconda, Montana, on August 21, 1921, the oldest of seven children. He graduated with a degree in chemistry from Carroll College in Helena in the spring of 1943, and studied for the priesthood at St. Edward’s Seminary in Kenmore, Washington. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Helena at St. Paul’s Church in Anaconda on June 1, 1946 by Bishop Joseph Gilmore.

Following his ordination, he began teaching at Carroll College and during the summers pursued graduate studies in chemistry at Notre Dame University, Fordham University, Catholic University of America, and St. Louis University. In addition to his teaching duties, Hunthausen became the athletic director for Carroll College where he coached football, basketball, baseball, track and most other sports. His teams won several titles and in 1966 he was named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, the only member of the American hierarchy ever so honored. He served as president of Carroll College from 1957-1962. Carroll College honored him by naming its new sports and student center after him in 2017.

In July, 1962, he was appointed Bishop of Helena by Pope John XXIII, and consecrated at St. Helena Cathedral on August 30, 1962. Significant parts of his first four years as bishop were spent at the Second Vatican Council in Rome, and the Archbishop always said the Council was his “on the job training” for being a bishop. During his years as Bishop of Helena he was noted for vigorously implementing the teachings of the Council and was especially passionate about ecumenism, liturgy, and collaborative ministry. He began the youth camps at Legendary Lodge and founded a diocesan mission in Guatemala, one of the first American bishops to do so.

In February, 1975, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Seattle, where he was installed on May 22 of that year. Known for his strong commitment to issues of peace and justice, Archbishop Hunthausen’ s leadership emphasized quality pastoral care for the people of the archdiocese, with particular emphasis on training and equipping lay women and men for ministry. In 1980, he wrote what is believed to be the first pastoral letter by an American bishop identifying steps the church should take to value the gifts of women equally with those of men. His dedication to shared responsibility and to inclusiveness brought the archdiocese into a new era marked by bold strides in ecumenism and multiculturalism. Under his direction in 1988, the Archdiocese of Seattle became one of the first dioceses in the nation to implement a policy to address child sexual abuse by priests and church employees.

His passion for peace became known around the world when he protested the proliferation of nuclear weapons, including the housing of Trident missile submarines on Puget Sound. So convinced was he of the immorality of the buildup of nuclear arms, that he began to withhold one-half of his own income taxes in 1982. Not long after, in 1983, the Vatican undertook an apostolic visitation to look into the Archbishop’s ministry, including some of his pastoral practices and public positions. The visitation, while difficult and divisive, served to highlight Hunthausen’s unfailing trust in God, his prayerfulness, and his unswerving dedication to the Church. When the visitation was concluded in 1987, he welcomed the appointment of Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy as his coadjutor.

Revered as an outspoken advocate for the poor and the marginalized, Archbishop Hunthausen was also a great advocate for women and their role in Church and society, as well as for women religious. So deeply was he committed to the Church’s ecumenical mission that many clergy of other denominations referred to him as “their bishop.” Always known for his “common touch,” Archbishop Hunthausen had little use for the titles or trappings of office, always preferring to walk among the people as one of them, a leader who was very much in touch with his people.

Despite his enormous responsibilities as a bishop of the Church, the Archbishop always maintained a warm and close relationship with his family. Among his siblings and his beloved nieces and nephews and his great-nieces and great-nephews, he was affectionately known as “Dutch” and his happiest times were those he shared with them at family gatherings where he could always be counted on to know the names of scores of family members down to the very youngest. A natural athlete and lover of the outdoors, the Archbishop took great delight in skiing, golfing, hiking, fishing, and relaxing with family and friends at his humble mountain cabin at Moose Lake.

Shortly after his retirement in 1991, he chose to spend more and more time with his family in Montana, but even so, he continued to help out in parishes and was much sought after as a retreat director and confessor. For the last several years of his life, he lived in a nursing facility in Helena alongside his brother Father Jack Hunthausen, where they celebrated Mass daily and welcomed a steady stream of visitors, both family and friends. Keenly interested in the Church and its mission to the last, he took particular joy in the election in 2013 of Pope Francis, whose vision and priorities in so many ways echoed his own.

The Archbishop was preceded in death by his father, Anthony G. Hunthausen and his mother, Edna T. Hunthausen; his brother, Art Hunthausen; his sister, Marie Walsh. He was also preceded in death by his sisters-in-law Donna Kane Hunthausen and Harriett Hunthausen; his brothers-in-law Pat Walsh and John Stergar; his nephews Pat Walsh, Ed Walsh, Jack Walsh, and Ray G. Hunthausen; and great-nephew Patrick Walsh Kelly. He is survived by his brothers Tony and (Father) Jack, both of Helena; and his sisters, Sister Edna, of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; and Jean Stergar of Anaconda; and by his 34 nieces and nephews, 101 great-nieces and nephews and 64 great-great nieces and nephews.

Bishop George Leo Thomas, recently appointed as bishop of Las Vegas, returned to The Cathedral of St. Helena to celebrate the Memorial Mass for his long-time friend and mentor. (photo above)

The following are selections from Bishop Thomas’ Homily on July 27th.

In late April, just days before my departure to the Diocese of Las Vegas, I had a tender and tearful visit with Archbishop Hunthausen at his residence just east of Helena.

He was in rare form that day—lucid and interactive, and the conversation was lively, with intermittent bouts of laughter and melancholy.  Each of us knew in our hearts that this was likely to be the last time we would be together this side of the grave.

As I took leave of the Archbishop’s room he called me back one more time.  “Please promise you’ll come back to Helena to celebrate my Memorial Mass.  It would mean the world to me.”  I’m here today to make good on that promise.  Besides that, “Who could say no to someone who holds such a treasured place in all of our hearts for decades on end?”

As I reflect back on the Archbishop’s long and lively tenure as the priest and bishop I have known since the day he confirmed me as a junior high boy in this Cathedral, I leave you with many valuable life lessons we have learned during his twenty-nine years of service as bishop and Archbishop. You may add your own.

He taught us to keep the eyes of our heart ever fixed on Christ, and maintain an active life of prayer and devoted companionship with the Risen Lord.

He taught us never to abandon the poor or forsake the cause of justice.  And while providing for the immediate needs of the poor, I would hear him quickly add, “Do not fail to address the underlying causes of poverty that keep the human family shackled in suffering for generations on end.”

Never give up on the Church, or fail to remember that ultimately the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and rests on the shoulders of the Apostles.

Avoid bitterness, resentment and cynicism at all cost, and never get in the way of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in spite of our best efforts or human foibles.

Cherish family, and build strong bonds of friendship to carry you through good times and bad. 

Cherish the children, and fill their hearts with love, laughter, and love of the Lord.

Pray and work untiringly for peace so that our children and our children’s children can live in security and peace.

Be guided by the words of Saint Paul when he wrote, “Remember that the Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God. Then the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

Now that the Archbishop’s earthly pilgrimage has come to an end, we commend him lovingly to the Risen Lord.  We ask the Lord to bless his heart with the same peace for which he poured out his life, a peace that is beyond all human understanding, a peace that flows from the very heart and life of our Risen Savior.

Rest in peace, dear Dutch, dear friend, until we are all together again, and stand in the loving presence of Jesus, who is ever in our midst, “as one who serves.”