We affectionately called him Uncle Art. He was a miracle worker of sorts, a dream weaver, the one who turned straw into gold.
Art Hunthausen was the financial aid director at Carroll College over a quarter century. During his tenure, he made Carroll College affordable for generations of aspiring college students.
Art had a deep affinity for hard-working families, and helped bring Carroll College within their reach. I was one of the beneficiaries of his compassion and care.
Carroll College has changed greatly in the 30-plus years since my graduation. A lay president is at the helm. A number of new high-tech buildings grace the campus. There are dramatically fewer priests and sisters in the classroom. A greater portion of the student body (36 percent) hails from outside Montana. And Saga Foods is but a distant memory.
But Carroll College is still a treasured institution and a precious resource for the Diocese of Helena, the state of Montana, and beyond.
The College has been nationally acclaimed for its academic excellence and relative affordability. The Fighting Saints football team and the Talking Saints forensic program are second to none. Carroll continues to excel in preparing students for careers in health-related professions, law, business, education and the liberal arts.
All of that, however, is not enough to ensure the vigor and vitality of our College in the decades ahead. A number of steps must be in place if we are to secure a vibrant future.
Carroll College must work hard to be intentionally Catholic in a highly secular marketplace and culture. We are doing so by continually celebrating our Catholic heritage and weaving our identity and mission into the fabric of the College. Father Dan Shea, in his homily at the 2006 Mass of the Holy Spirit, stated poignantly: “Listening to one another is the heart of the discernment process which can be used for decision-making and conflict-resolution. It is not easy to let go of my dream and assist in helping our dream to be born.”
The College is doing all in its power to make Carroll accessible and affordable to ordinary families. Twenty-eight percent of its current budget is dedicated to financial aid. Future affordability is predicated on a sound endowment base. The upcoming centennial celebration will be a pivotal time for the College to secure donations and gifts sufficient to carry us well into the future.
Carroll College must remain a “college with a heart.” In other words, the College is helping its graduates use their gifts and talents to address the underlying causes of poverty, disease and human misery wherever they are found. Catholic social teaching is an important lens through which the Church recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of every human being from the moment of conception until natural death. Carroll College is a perfect environment in which to introduce students to this powerful vision of human life.
The College is working hard to attract, retain and support its excellent faculty. We are blessed with gifted women and men who are experts in their fields and passionate in their commitment to research and teaching. Their academic excellence should be rewarded by competitive salaries and ongoing opportunities for sabbaticals.
The College is taking seriously its responsibility “to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.” The document Ex Corde Ecclesia from the late Pope John Paul II encouraged Catholic colleges and universities to include in their research and study activities serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order to better serve the human community at a national and international level.
The college or university is also a primary and privileged place for fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture. Pope John Paul II stated that “among the criteria that characterize the values of a culture are above all, the meaning of the human person, his or her liberty, dignity, sense of responsibility, and openness to the transcendent.” A commitment to dialogue should also include an emphasis on ecumenical dialogue and a deep and abiding respect for students who come to us from other faiths and cultures.
As diocesan bishop, I have the obligation to provide for the pastoral care of students and staff at all of our colleges and universities. Carroll College is blessed by the skilled pastoral ministry of Father Dougald McCallum, and the recipient of strong and creative lay ministry through Colleen Dunne and a cadre of student peer ministers. Our campus chaplains – Father Dougald at Carroll College, Father Jeff Fleming at the University of Montana, Father Val Zdilla at Montana State University, Father Herb Pins at University of Montana-Dillon, and Father Robert Hall at Montana Tech – not only provide for sacramental and pastoral needs of the student body. They and their assistants also mentor Christian living by helping our students make connections between worship and service, prayer and compassion, love of God and love of neighbor.
Finally, the Diocese of Helena and Carroll College are working together to find ways for our students to become involved in cultures and communities beyond our national borders. Our own mission in Guatemala, maternity programs in Africa, orphanages in India and Northern Ireland are but a few prospective venues where students can live among and learn from other cultures and peoples.
It is my sincere hope that the priests and lay leaders of the Diocese of Helena will acclaim this valuable institution as one of the great treasures of the Diocese and encourage new generations of students to enroll in a college that helps the student prepare “not just for school, but for life”!
P.S. Thanks, Uncle Art, from the bottom of my heart.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 22, No. 9, September 18, 2006.