Ed.: Bishop George Leo Thomas will
celebrate his 35th anniversary of priestly
ordination on May 22. A feature on his
priestly ministry will appear in the June
edition of The Montana Catholic.
Ten priests in the Diocese of Helena are
celebrating ordination anniversaries of 50
to 65 years this spring and summer. Here
are brief profiles of each priest.
FATHER JOSEPH OBLINGER
Until he fell ill
in 2007, Father
never had been
admitted to a hospital.
“I don’t plan
on going again,”
he said this
month as he edged toward his 90th birthday
on May 25, and the 65th anniversary
of his ordination as a priest for the Diocese
of Helena, on May 30. His plans do include
more ministry, more hiking on the mountain
trails that he loves and perhaps writing
a fourth book.
On senior status since 1991, Father
Oblinger lives in Bozeman and is the sacramental
minister for Our Lady of the Pines
Parish in West Yellowstone and St. Joseph
of Big Sky Mission. This winter, he got
busy finishing his book about the late Diocese
of Helena Bishop Joseph M. Gilmore,
and therefore went downhill skiing only
Father Oblinger said his upcoming projects
might include a book drawing on
columns he used to write for the diocesan
newspaper. His autobiography “Fisher of
Men,” published in 2006, soon was followed
by “Rescuing Vanishing Manhood,”
about the challenges presented by fatherlessness.
Father Oblinger is awaiting publication
of the Gilmore book, possibly
around Father’s Day. He said that in writing
it he was thankful for the help of diocesan
archivist Sister Dolores Brinkel,
editorial assistant Marilyn Barnhardt and
Steve Buckner, a Bozeman deacon candidate
who provided technology assistance.
Born in Big Valley, Alberta, Father
Oblinger grew up in Montana and was a
college student when he felt the priesthood
calling seriously. “I love the Church,” he
told The Montana Catholic in a 2005 interview.
Soon after earning a bachelor’s degree
in chemistry in the state university
system, he studied philosophy at Carroll
College and then went to St. Edward’s
Seminary near Seattle.
After ordination, he served in the Diocese
of Helena chancery for five years,
three as chancellor. Next came pastoral assignments
at St. Ann Parish in Butte and St.
John the Baptist in Frenchtown. Father
Oblinger returned to the chancery and
served there for 17 years. He was the chaplain
at Good Shepherd Home for girls; pastored
at the Cathedral of St. Helena and
was vicar general; chaired the diocesan
pastoral planning office; served as a liaison
for Catholic Charismatic Renewal; and was
the Montana-based director of the diocesan
mission in Guatemala.
Father Oblinger was diocesan administrator
between the departure of Bishop
Raymond Hunthausen in 1975 and the arrival
of Bishop Elden Curtiss in 1976, and
served as retreat director, highlighted by 14
years as director of Christhaven.
A party celebrating 65 years in the
priesthood is set for May 29 in Big Sky.
ARCHBISHOP RAYMOND G. HUNTHAUSEN
As a student at Carroll College, Archbishop
Raymond Hunthausen liked chemistry
and math, and thought that eventually
he might pursue a career as a chemical engineer.
“I didn’t have an intention of becoming
a priest when I went off to college,” he
said recently, but
he did consider
the possibility at
the same time
that he considered
His Carroll spiritual
Topel, helped him
design an undergraduate education that
“prepared me for the seminary just in case
I wanted to go,” he said.
The seminary did indeed draw Archbishop
Hunthausen, and on June 1, 1946,
he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of
Helena. He said he is astonished by the
passage of 65 years since his ordination,
and equally astonished by his longevity.
His 90th birthday is on Aug. 21.
“My sentiments are fundamentally gratitude
to God, that I would have been so
privileged as to be called to be a priest and
to serve in this diocese where I came to
know and love so many people, my brother
priests especially,” said Archbishop
Hunthausen, born and raised in Anaconda.
He said he is grateful, too, for having
served in the Archdiocese of Seattle.
He became the president of Carroll College
in 1957 and was named a monsignor
the following year. Installation as the sixth
bishop of the Diocese of Helena came on
Aug. 31, 1962, and within two months he
went to Rome for the opening session of
the Second Vatican Council. He was installed
as archbishop of Seattle on May 22,
1975, and retired in 1991.
Over the years, Archbishop Hunthausen
became known as a strong advocate of
peace efforts, and expansion of Catholic
social outreach and advocacy for the poor.
Carroll now has the Hunthausen Center for
Peace and Justice and annually confers the
Raymond G. Hunthausen Award for Community
Of the decision to enter the priesthood,
he said, “When I came to the moment, I
knew that this was where I belonged. It was
the grace of God.”
He said a solid Catholic upbringing that
included education in Catholic schools
gave him a foundation for his life’s work.
His education at Catholic institutions continued
well beyond high school. In addition
to the undergraduate years at Carroll, he
studied at four other Catholic campuses: St.
Louis University, The Catholic University
of America, Fordham University and the
University of Notre Dame.
Physical limitations restrict Archbishop
Hunthausen’s activities, but he still hears
confessions once a week in East Helena.
He lives in Helena with his brother, Father
FATHER GREGORY BURKE
Father Gregory Burke of Butte is retired,
sort of. He went on senior status in
1998, but five days a week he provides pastoral
care at St. James Healthcare in Butte,
and he’s available to serve an additional
two days if the hospital calls.
“I love it, and I am able to help a lot of
good people,” said Father Burke, 85 and
for 60 years a priest.
He was born in Ireland’s County Cork
and arrived in Montana at the age of 22.
Ordination was about four years later, on
May 16, 1951, at the Cathedral of St. Helena.
“I love my Catholic faith and I give a
lot of gratitude to my parents, who were
said. “I came
from a good
which I think is
an ideal basis for
His message to young men
considering the priesthood: “Pray, pray and
go for it.”
Diocese of Helena parishes Father
Burke has served as pastor are St. Ann in
Butte, Holy Rosary in Bozeman, Immaculate
Conception in Deer Lodge, St. John the
Evangelist in Butte and Holy Family in
Three Forks. He served those parishes during
the span from 1968 to mid-1997, finishing
at St. Ann and then transitioning to
senior status. Father Burke’s earlier assignments
were in Eureka, Browning, at St.
Patrick Parish in Butte and at St. Paul in
Anaconda. Those assignments followed a
faculty position, received in 1951, at
Cathedral High School in Helena.
Father Burke said he enjoyed all of his
Montana assignments. Looking at the
broader Church, he believes the Second
Vatican Council had “a real positive effect.
It changed our Church for the better” by
making it more accessible to people.
He studied at St. Finnbarr’s College,
Mount Melleray College and St. Patrick’s-
Thurles, all in Ireland, and at St. Edward
Seminary in Kenmore, Wash.
Father Burke still speaks with an Irish
brogue and has returned to his birth country
many times over the years. In 2004 he was
one of the grand marshals for the St.
Patrick’s Day Parade in Butte.
St. James Healthcare planned a jubilee reception
on May 19, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
MSGR. JOSEPH HARRINGTON
Msgr. Joseph Harrington remembers
“practicing” Mass as a boy at an altar that
was in his Butte home, courtesy of an aunt
who thought it would be a nice gift.
“Ever since I
was a child, I
wanted to be a
priest,” said Msgr.
Cathedral of St.
Helena 55 years
ago, on May 19,
1956. He was appointed
episcopal vicar for Carroll College
in 1978, was named monsignor in 2000 and
was appointed episcopal vicar for seniorstatus
clergy in 2005, a position he continues
He had good models of religious life
when he attended Catholic elementary
school with Sisters of Charity of the
Blessed Virgin Mary as teachers, he said,
and during his years in Butte’s public high
school, he was a server in Mass. Most of
his high school teachers were Catholic
Much of his service during his 55 years
as a priest has been at Carroll College,
where he held a variety of administrative
positions and in 1969-74, served as president.
In the classroom, he taught microbiology
and other science classes at the
diocesan college. Msgr. Harrington retired
from teaching in 2000.
A Carroll alumnus, his graduate and
post-graduate studies were at The Catholic
University of America in Washington, D.C.
At CUA he reportedly was known as “Blast
Off Joe” because as the hour for class approached,
he would say “time to blast off,”
according to a homily on the occasion of
his golden jubilee in 2006.
Msgr. Harrington entered the field of
education following brief assignments in
Conrad and Eureka soon after his ordination.
As a seminarian, he said, he expected
to be in parish work for many years.
He has done a lot of substitution service
in Diocese of Helena parishes, and continues
to celebrate Mass when asked.
“If I’m able to do it, I do, almost anywhere
they ask me to go,” said Msgr. Harrington,
who is 80 and lives in Helena.
Young men contemplating the priesthood
“should realize that it’s a great way
to serve the Lord and to serve people,” said
Msgr. Harrington, uncle of Father Robert
Hall at Butte Catholic Community North.
“I did it mostly through teaching young
FATHER WILLIAM GREYTAK
Father William Greytak and early
priests of the Diocese of Helena share a
Belgium link. A
number of those
early priests came
from the tiny European
and it was in Belgium
for the priesthood
and then was ordained,
on July 1,
1956. He likes having that connection.
Attending American College at the
University of Louvain “gave me an opportunity
to get a wonderful education and see
a lot of Europe,” said Father Greytak, rector
at American College from 1978-83.
Today he ministers in Boulder at St.
Catherine Parish, where he has been the
pastor since 1992. His background includes
pastoral service at St. Thomas the Apostle
Parish in Helmville, beginning in 1986.
At 80, Father Greytak is working in
what ordinarily would be the retirement
years. “I enjoy doing it, so why not do it?”
As an undergraduate at Carroll College,
the Butte native anticipated studying law.
He felt the pull of the priesthood, though,
and he remembers some exemplary priests
who served as models for his vocational
A historian and a teacher, he said the academic
year just ending marks the first
time in many years that he did not instruct
a class at Carroll.
History is his field, but soon after ordination
he taught Spanish at the college. He
subsequently studied romance languages at
the University of Michigan and later enrolled
at the University of California-
Berkeley when it was a hotbed of student
activism. “I was a student from Butte.
Would I ever cross a picket line?” he asked
rhetorically. He transferred to the University
of Colorado, where he earned a doctorate
At Boulder, he is proud of St. Catherine’s
relatively new pastoral center and its
availability for use by community groups
or other churches. The center “should be
shared,” he said.
In the summer, the historic church
housing St. John the Evangelist Mission 15
miles southeast of Boulder is open, and Father
Greytak celebrates Mass there as well
as at St. Catherine. The mission church
takes on a family reunion air, he said, as
young adults who have moved away return
home for summer visits, and worship with
In his service as a priest, he said, he sees
over and over “how supportive and good
people are. They’re so appreciative of
whatever you do for them.”
FATHER JIM HOGAN
On the eve of what was to be his ordination
as a sub-deacon in Washington, Father
Jim Hogan backed out. The next day, men
who were his
classmates at St.
near Seattle were
ordained and the
returned home to
about his direction
Today, Father Hogan is 76 and preparing
to celebrate 50 years in the priesthood.
He lives in Missoula, as he has for most
of the years since he was ordained a priest on
May 27, 1961, at the Cathedral of St. Helena.
He went on senior status in 2006 after 22
years as pastor at Missoula’s Christ the King
Parish and as director of Catholic Campus
Ministry at the University of Montana.
His work at Christ the King followed a
year of pastoring Little Flower Parish in
Browning. Earlier he was the founding pastor
at Holy Family Parish in Missoula and
Spirit of Christ in nearby Lolo, serving
both for 10 years. His background also includes
supervision of the Religious Education
Center in Helena; pastoral service at
the cathedral, St. Anthony Parish in Missoula
and St. Ann Parish in Butte; and
teaching at Catholic schools in Missoula,
Butte and Helena.
Father Hogan grew up in Anaconda and
attended Carroll College, where his basketball
coach was Father Raymond
Hunthausen, who later became the Diocese
of Helena bishop and then the Seattle archbishop.
Father Hogan said that in his post-
Carroll period, thoughtful counsel amid
the struggle about ordination came from
Father Hunthausen and influenced the return
to seminary and the walk to the priesthood.
Father Hogan has the seminary equivalent
of a master’s degree in theological
studies. He also holds a University of Montana
master’s in educational administration
and from Loyola University in Chicago, a
master’s in pastoral studies.
His outreach beyond the parish community
has included serving on committees and
boards that worked to establish a new Missoula
jail, to evaluate municipal goals and
to guide the Poverello Center in its assistance
for Missoula’s homeless and hungry.
In 2000, Father Hogan received the Jeannette
Rankin Peace Center’s Peacemaker of
the Year Award for exemplifying commitment
to social justice and nonviolence.
The 50th anniversary of Father Hogan’s
ordination will be celebrated on May 27 at
Christ the King Parish. Liturgy will be followed
by a meal.
FATHER JIM HAZELTON
Father Jim Hazelton remembers thinking
the 24 months of car payments looming
before him more than 50 years ago were a
reason to sideline thoughts of studying for
the priesthood. Finish paying for the car, he
figured, and then examine whether he
should move from classroom teaching,
which had been his work for eight years, to
life as a priest.
But those car payments notwithstanding,
he discussed vocations with Diocese
of Helena Bishop Joseph M. Gilmore, for
whom he had
been a boyhood
earlier at the
Cathedral of St.
the bishop saying,
“Well, Hazy, how
do you feel?” The
reply: “I think I
should be doing more with my life than I
am now doing.”
This month, Father Hazelton celebrates
50 years as a diocesan priest, most of those
years as a missionary in Guatemala. May
27 marks the anniversary of his ordination
in 1961 at the cathedral.
He recalls that in the conversation with
Bishop Gilmore, the talk moved quickly to
the priesthood, with the bishop declaring
“you are going to be a diocesan priest” and
the two then discussing seminaries. Father
Hazelton said he liked mountain settings.
The bishop told him that St. Thomas Seminary
in Denver came with a view of the
peaks, and that to avoid being distracted
while at the seminary, he should stop thinking
about mission work.
In an email to The Montana Catholic,
Father Hazelton said he left the visit with
Bishop Gilmore “wondering what I had
done” and how he was going to steer clear
of the priesthood, given the bishop’s expectations.
As it turned out, their talk was “the
most important and blessed 5-minute interview
of my life,” Father Hazelton said.
“Now I am celebrating 50 years of diocesan
priesthood, and I was still able to fulfill
one of my early dreams—being a missionary
The Diocese of Helena’s mission in
Guatemala was established in 1963. Father
Hazelton arrived in 1964, 37 years old and
a newly minted pastoral assistant from St.
Joseph Parish in Butte. Now 84, he has
worked tirelessly to make education available
to Guatemalan children, many from
families that thought schooling was beyond
reach. He directs the mission school established
in 1996. Father Hazelton regularly
celebrates Mass in the mission hub of
Santo Tomas la Union and in outlying
Born in Helena, he received a bachelor’s
degree from Carroll College in 1949
and studied at St. Thomas in Denver.
FATHER THOMAS O’DONNELL
Father Thomas O’Donnell, the pastor at
Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in East Helena,
remembers that the priests and nuns
he knew as a boy in Helena were marvelous
models for life in a Catholic vocation.
“They were great mentors,” said Father
and presence in
his youth, he said,
his life as a priest
“took root and
With May 27
the 50th anniversary
O’Donnell’s ordination as a priest, “I look
back and thank God for the call to the
priesthood, for God’s presence and guidance
in my life all these years and for all
the wonderful people God has put in my
He was ordained for the Diocese of Helena
on May 27, 1961, after seminary studies
at The Catholic University of America
in Washington, D.C. He and the diocese’s
Father Ed Stupca, who also celebrates his
golden jubilee this month, traveled there by
train from Montana and roomed together
for three years.
After a diocesan parish appointment for
a summer, Father O’Donnell joined the faculty
at Carroll College, his alma mater, in
1961 and was there until he entered graduate
school at St. Louis University four
years later. Pastoral work at St. Anthony
Parish in Missoula followed the graduate
studies, and in 1982-83 he was the rector
at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. Father
O’Donnell subsequently co-pastored
St. Richard Parish in Columbia Falls, directed
the pre-seminary program at Carroll,
worked in the field of continuing education
for priests, pastored Risen Christ Parish in
Kalispell and served as the diocesan vocations
director. Fifteen years ago, he became
the pastor at Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
Today, people considering religious vocations
sometimes lack the family support
that strengthened him as he discerned his
path, said Father O’Donnell, 76, “but the
basics are the same…and that is to persevere
in seeking God’s will, to seek out
guidance and support and pray, faithfully
and with faith that God’s will will be done.
Who knows where that might lead? God
will give all the help that people need to
find their way.”
At Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Father
O’Donnell’s ordination jubilee will be
commemorated on May 25, when there
will be a Mass followed by a parish dinner
and social gathering.
FATHER ED STUPCA
People called Father Ed Stupca the
“roamin’ Catholic” when he served Madison
County Catholic Community in the
1990s. Dividing his time among the
county’s burgs of Sheridan, Laurin and
Ennis, he traveled a lot.
Today Father Stupca is on senior status
and lives in Butte.
He said that as
a boy growing up
in Anaconda, he
On May 27 he
will celebrate the
of his ordination.
from Carroll College, Father Stupca
studied theology at The Catholic University
of America. Then he joined the Carroll
faculty, in 1961. Several years later he
began pastoral work that took him to St.
Anthony Parish in Missoula, followed by
service at St. Patrick and St. Joseph
parishes in Butte, at St. Rose of Lima
Parish in Dillon, and again at St. Anthony.
In 1991 he began the Madison County assignment,
which he held until taking senior
status in 2006.
“The priesthood is a wonderful way of
life,” said Father Stupca, 75. “People share
their lives with you in ordinary times, in
sad times and happy times. You really get
to know people and love them. That’s the
main thing about the priesthood—serving
people in the name of the Lord.”
Cheerful and quick to laugh, Father
Stupca said he likes “to experience different
things in life,” an advantageous attitude
even as he reeled from a heart attack about
three years ago. Doctors in Butte determined
he should go to St. Patrick Hospital
in Missoula, which necessitated flying in a
helicopter—something Father Stupca always
had wanted to do.
“I’d never been in a helicopter, and I
was just so happy to be up there in the air,”
he said. “I didn’t have sense enough to
His guides have included the priests and
women religious who were a steady presence
in the Anaconda Catholic schools of
his boyhood, “a wonderful milieu for considering
the priesthood,” he said. He recalls
warmly the counsel of the late Msgr. Denis
Meade, at St. Anthony Parish, and Archbishop
Raymond Hunthausen. Father
Stupca said he also has good memories of
working in Dillon with Father Ed Kohler,
and in Missoula with Fathers Jim Hogan
and Tom O’Donnell, Sisters Veronica
Kirscher, CHM, and Ursula Keough,
CHM, and with Terry Jimmerson, currently
pastoral assistant at St. Anthony.
Father Stupca’s ordination jubilee will
be commemorated May 27 at Holy Family
Church in Anaconda. A meal and music
will follow the 6 p.m. Mass.
FATHER TOM FLYNN
Father Tom Flynn tells his students at
Atlanta’s Emory University that they may
call him at home as late as midnight. He
encourages communication, and if that
means taking late calls, Father Flynn is
happy to do so.
of Helena priest
this summer celebrating
anniversary of his
ordination is a
Emory, where he
began teaching in
1978. His reputation as an academic is international.
“I’d always wanted to be a priest, since
I was a little kid,” Father Flynn said by
phone this month while in Helena for a
meeting of the Carroll College Board of
Trustees, on which he has served since
2009. “I also wanted to be a teacher.”
Father Flynn, who grew up in Anaconda,
received a doctorate in French philosophy
from Columbia University in New
York, in 1970. He earned a bachelor’s degree
at Carroll in 1958. Between working
toward the degrees at Carroll and Columbia,
he earned a licentiate in theology from
Gregorian University in Rome. That was in
1962, as the Second Vatican Council was
“Shortly before I left Rome, I paid my
last respects to St. Peter’s Basilica and saw
the desks set up for bishops from all over
the world, in preparation for the Council,”
Father Flynn told Carroll Magazine five
years ago as the college prepared to present
him an with an honorary doctorate.
“Vatican II taught us that we must not
only teach the modern world, we must also
learn from it.”
Father Flynn taught at Carroll, Columbia
and The Catholic University of America
before joining the faculty at Emory.
In a previous profile in The Montana
Catholic, he said that his work at Emory
provided opportunities to interact with people
“who wouldn’t normally talk to a priest
or know a priest otherwise. I have a chance
to show them that priests are human, they
also have a spirituality that they can share.”
His service in the Archdiocese of Atlanta
has included assisting in Mass at several
Father Flynn, 74, said that as a young
man, he considered what he could best do
with his life and the priesthood ranked first.
He was ordained on July 16, 1961. “I love
being a priest,” he said. “It’s a very fulfilling
Published in The Montana Catholic Online, Volume 27, No. 5, May 20, 2011.