In Your Midst


Summer 2002
In This Issue:

I see a wonderful coincidence in two anniversaries that take place in the next couple of months. The year 2002 marks the fortieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council and it also marks the fortieth anniversary of the Episcopal ordination of our beloved retired Archbishop, Raymond G. Hunthausen. It is altogether appropriate that these two anniversaries should fall within six weeks of each other since, to all who know him, the Archbishop is the quintessential Vatican II bishop.

Archbishop Hunthausen’s appointment as a bishop couldn’t have been more timely. He was ordained bishop of his native diocese of Helena, Montana on August 24, 1962. Less than two months later he found himself in Rome at the opening session of the Second Vatican Council. As one of the world’s most junior bishops, his seating for that first session of the Council was far to the back of St. Peter’s Basilica and nearly up in the rafters, for strict seniority was followed in such matters! No matter. Raymond Hunthausen didn’t need to be in a front-row seat in order to absorb the spirit of what went on during those extraordinary days and years of the Council. He took it all in from a distance but it quickly became anything but remote from the way he came to understand the church and the role of a bishop.

Archbishop Hunthausen with his Chancelor Father Ryan in 1987.

Archbishop Hunthausen likes to say that he got his on-the-job-training as a bishop at the Council. During those remarkable days when the windows of the church were flung open to let in the fresh air of the Holy Spirit, the young bishop from Helena awakened to what a bishop was supposed to be - not a distant, lordly monarch, but a courageous teacher, a compassionate shepherd, and part of a worldwide college of bishops. Church leadership, he learned, was a two-way street and any bishop worth his salt would have to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through God’s holy people and find appropriate ways to share responsibility with them for the life and governance of the church.

Twelve years after the Council adjourned, a seasoned Bishop Raymond Hunthausen was asked to leave his native Montana in order to lead the Church of Seattle as Archbishop. He would serve here as Archbishop for the next sixteen years, until his retirement in 1991. Those were years full of grace and growth for the church here. We saw a spiritual renewal centered in the celebration of the church’s liturgy, the development of consultative councils at the Archdiocesan level and in every parish of the Archdiocese an unprecedented expansion of social outreach and advocacy programs on behalf of the poor, a growing awareness of the call of all Christians to be peacemakers, and a deep level of commitment to dialogue with other Christians and non-Christians. More than anything, however, those years witnessed countless numbers of lay Catholics claiming their baptismal birthright by becoming informed, involved, and vocal members of the church.

But Archbishop Hunthausen’s commitment to implementing the teachings of Vatican II brought with it a price. He was more interested in allowing the Spirit to stir up renewal in the church than he was in imposing control and stifling creativity. Some people found this frightening and longed for the days of a more regimented, top-down church. Their fears and complaints eventually reached the Vatican and the Vatican, in turn, reached out, first to investigate, and then to impose controls. Several years of controversy followed, which took their toll on the Archbishop. In the end, even though he endured some reprimands, the Archbishop’s leadership was affirmed and the church of this Archdiocese emerged stronger than ever, and deeply committed to the great vision of the Second Vatican Council.

We here at St. James Cathedral have enjoyed a special relationship with Archbishop Hunthausen over the years since he chose to live in the Cathedral rectory for many years — well into his retirement. He continues to regard himself as a parishioner of St. James, making a generous weekly contribution to the parish through the Sacrificial Giving program and contributing to the Annual Catholic Appeal and to special parish financial campaigns. In recent years he has led the parish in days of retreat and preached at special Masses in the Cathedral. And even when he’s not physically present, the Archbishop retains a presence among us through three Cathedral ‘institutions’ which bear his name: the Hunthausen Library (which bears not only his name but some of his books on peacemaking), the annual Hunthausen Charity Golf Tournament, and the Hunthausen Fund (which moves homeless people into permanent housing through grants and no-interest loans).

Archbishop Hunthausen will celebrate his fortieth anniversary as a bishop at a special Mass in the Cathedral on Friday, September 20th, at 5:00 PM. It should be a wonderful moment to salute this remarkable leader of the church, an outstanding bishop who, in his humble, unassuming way, modeled for us the very meaning of the Second Vatican Council.

Father Michael G. Ryan
Cathedral Pastor

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