New endowed chair in homiletics at St. Paul Seminary honors Archbishop Harry Flynn

A $2 million gift to the St. Paul Seminary from Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst and Opus Philanthropic Group will endow a chair in homiletics in honor of Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Flynn also is chairman of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees. He is scheduled to retire about a year from now when he turns 75.

The chair will be called the Archbishop Harry Flynn Endowed Chair in Homiletics. Homiletics is the art of preaching and is a standard course of instruction at the St. Paul Seminary and at other Catholic seminaries throughout the world.

Archbishop Harry Flynn

Believed to be the largest donation since the institution was founded 113 years ago, it is being given as a lead gift to the seminary’s $23 million endowment campaign “to recognize Archbishop Flynn’s extraordinary contributions to the church,” said Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the seminary.

“This is a tremendous vote of confidence from one of the nation’s leading Catholic families in support of the education of our next generation of priests and a wonderful tribute to an outstanding shepherd,” Callaghan said.

In making the gift, Karen Dolan Rauenhorst, who chairs the Opus Philanthropic Group, said “our entire family understands the need for having priests who are gifted speakers to deliver the message of Christ to the entire church population.”

She also noted the heightened sense of responsibility that their “entire family embraced as lay persons when considering a gift to the seminary’s campaign. It was something we all felt strongly about. We really wanted to focus on this area of priestly formation.”

Gerald Rauenhorst, with his wife Henrietta, personally contributed to the gift along with four of the family foundations. He said, “over the years our family has come to have enormous respect for Archbishop Flynn. We have all been particularly struck by his ability to consistently deliver homilies with passion, with intelligence and with great conviction. I believe that is why the family chose to honor him at a place where his heart is. I think Archbishop Flynn is an exemplary model for today’s seminarians.”

Rauenhorst, the founder of Opus Corp., quoted the biblical passage: “Of him to whom much is given, much is required.” He said “we work hard to make our money and we work equally hard to give it away judiciously.

“Archbishop Flynn is clearly a talented leader. The family was particularly impressed that the two seminaries he chairs – the college-level St. John Vianney Seminary and the graduate-level St. Paul Seminary – together are educating more than 200 young men for the priesthood on the campus of the University of St. Thomas. Almost nowhere in the country is there such an outpouring of vocations. That impressed the family council.”

In addition to Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst’s personal gift, the four foundations that contributed to the $2 million total were the Opus Foundation, the Better Way Foundation, the Sieben Foundation, and the Opus Prize Foundation. Each is chaired by a member of the Rauenhorst family.

Callaghan said that endowed chairs provide an essential means of support for the seminary, freeing up scholars to pursue their very best work while extending their knowledge in the classroom and beyond. Because of their permanent endowed underpinning, they help strengthen the institution at its very core by attracting and retaining the finest, most committed teachers in their respective fields.

“Recognizing Archbishop Flynn in this fashion was a natural way for the Rauenhorst family to honor this archbishop and to challenge the rest of the seminary constituency to support our ‘I Will Give You Shepherds’ campaign,” he said. “This is the first of three chairs that we are seeking to endow in this campaign.”

The seminary was founded in 1894 through a gift to Archbishop John Ireland from the prominent St. Paul family of James J. Hill, the Empire Builder, who founded the Great Northern railroad. “Now, 113 years later, another prominent family is making the largest single gift since then to honor another great churchman,” Callaghan said.

Flynn said that he was “extremely gratified at the generosity of the Rauenhorst family. It is a great challenge to meet a whole congregation of people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and different educational backgrounds and try to break open the word of God for them. In this way the chair will be very beneficial to the church.”

The appointment for the first incumbent of the Flynn chair is currently under consideration.

For more information about the seminary’s endowment campaign, contact Tom Ryan, vice president for institutional advancement, at (651) 962-5795 or trryan@stthomas.edu.

As an independent, nonprofit corporation under the supervision of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the St. Paul Seminary is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the physical assets (land and buildings) associated with the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, which was formed through an affiliation agreement with the University of St. Thomas in 1987.

In addition, the St. Paul Seminary Corp. is committed to enhancing the academic and formation program for priesthood candidates and lay ministers in the church, which programs are the academic and fiscal responsibility of the University of St. Thomas through the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas. This campaign is one of the most significant ways for the St. Paul Seminary Corp. to achieve this latter responsibility.