Remembering Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen

Written by Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
July 24, 2018

Dear Seattle University Community,

Seattle University joins with others in the Seattle community and beyond in mourning and remembering with deep gratitude Archbishop Emeritus Raymond G. Hunthausen, who passed away Sunday at the age of 96.

Archbishop Hunthausen had an outsized impact on our region and nation. Soon after being named bishop of his home Diocese of Helena, Montana, in 1962, he traveled to Rome for the Second Vatican Council. He was one of the youngest bishops to participate in the Council, and the experience profoundly influenced and shaped him and the kind of leader he would become. He said, “The four sessions of the Council were the best possible formation anyone could have had to be a bishop.” Upon his return to the United States, he helped set in motion numerous reforms intended to more fully open the Catholic Church to the world and society.

Appointed by Pope Paul VI to lead the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1975, Archbishop Hunthausen understood that the Catholic Church is only as strong as its people. He nurtured a more inclusive Church, empowering laypersons to take on roles traditionally reserved for clergy. Recognizing that no faith has a monopoly on the truth, he was committed to interreligious dialogue and forming collaborative relationships with people of other Christian denominations. He was a voice for the poor and the marginalized and welcomed with open arms those who historically had not been embraced by the Church. Ever grounded by his moral convictions and conscience, Archbishop Hunthausen firmly stood up for what he believed was right. A champion for peace and justice, he actively opposed nuclear weapons, even though this position put him at odds with some conservative Catholics and the Reagan Administration.

As giant a man as he was in the eyes of many, Archbishop Hunthausen at his core was a humble and compassionate servant of the Lord. He had a gentle and pastoral presence, reflecting and generously sharing God’s love with others.

Here at Seattle University we have a particularly special connection with the Archbishop. He modeled a vision for the Church that long after his retirement in 1991 has continued to resonate with and inspire our educational mission as a Catholic and Jesuit institution. He was also an active partner in our work. In the 1980s, he teamed with then-President Bill Sullivan, S.J., to form the Institute for Theological Studies (ITS) as a way of training Catholic lay men and women for pastoral ministry in parishes, hospital chaplaincies and social ministries of the Church. The institute grew, eventually evolving into the School of Theology and Ministry in 1997, and its success drew the attention of Protestant leaders who began sending their seminarians and laypersons to SU for ministerial formation.

In the spirit of Archbishop Hunthausen, the university continues to deepen its commitment to forming leaders for ministry and fostering ecumenical collaboration while celebrating his name and legacy in enduring ways on our campus. One of the highlights of my presidency was joining the Archbishop in 2004 as we dedicated in his name the building that appropriately houses the School of Theology and Ministry. His name also can be found on a prestigious award that we give annually to students who live out our university’s mission as persons for others.

Funeral services for Archbishop Hunthausen, which are open to the public, will be celebrated in Helena and here in Seattle as follows:

Friday, July 27
Memorial Mass in Helena Cathedral, 11 a.m.
(Bishop George Thomas, presider and homilist)

Tuesday, July 31 

  • 2-5 p.m., Viewing, St. James Cathedral, 804 9th Ave., Seattle
  • 7:30 p.m., Vigil service, St. James Cathedral (Archbishop Peter Sartain presiding, Bishop Bill Skylstad preaching)

Wednesday, Aug. 1

  • 11 a.m., Funeral Mass, St. James Cathedral (Archbishop Sartain presiding, Fr. Michael Ryan preaching)
  • Public reception to follow
  • Interment in Cathedral Crypt later in the day

In the meantime, let us remember this great friend of Seattle University and keep in our thoughts and prayers the many family members whom he loved so dearly, including his great-niece Hannah who works in the School of Theology and Ministry.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.