Archbishop Flynn lightens situations with a little levity

Archbishop Harry Flynn
 Archbishop Harry Flynn

It was a solemn occasion recently at the Catholic Church of St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake — the funeral for the pastor’s father. Yet there was some levity, even on the altar.

Among those celebrating the funeral mass for Rodger T. Bauman, were his son, the Rev. Rodger Bauman of St. Mary’s, and Archbishop Harry Flynn.

Father Bauman spoke lovingly of his dad, who had died Christmas Eve at age 90. He mentioned that his parents gave much to the community, in time and money, noting that they received large amounts of mail from various charities and foundations.

“I would be remiss, with the archbishop here today, not to mention their strong support of the Archbishop’s Annual Catholic Appeal,” Bauman said in the eulogy.

Below him, in the pews, Bauman’s mother, Millie, smiled.

The priest continued along that vein, gesturing to his mom.

“He gave a lot to the Archbishop’s Appeal, didn’t he, Mom? Mom? C’mon, Mom, nod or something. My job’s on the line, here.”

Later in the service, Flynn said he appreciated the plug for the annual appeal drive.

“And don’t worry,” he said. “Your job is safe,” he told Bauman.

Archbishop mixes in lighthearted moments
Flynn, who will retire as head of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis this year upon turning 75, has been lighthearted in church before.

Once, the renowned Rev. John Malone, who recently retired as pastor at Assumption parish in downtown St. Paul, was giving a homily and noticed someone seemed to be sleeping. It was Flynn.

“Wake up. You could learn something here,” Malone told his boss.

Later, Flynn spoke and said: “I thank Father Malone for his sermon. I think it might have been a good one.”

Even if he’s sometimes the straight-man, Flynn’s on-altar repartee isn’t surprising, said Dennis McGrath, the archdiocesan spokesperson.

“He has a great deal of camaraderie with his priests,” McGrath said. “He never relinquishes his dignity — I don’t mean that. I once made the mistake of calling him ‘Father,’ and he reminded me, with a smile: “Let’s get our titles straight.’ I did, after that.”

“But you can tell he has extra-deep feelings for his priests. He used to run a seminary on the East Coast, and it’s fun to see the joy he takes in all his priests, the young, the old. He has cookouts for the seminarians and a Christmas party for the priests.”

Sure’n Flynn has a touch o’ that fine Irish wit, McGrath said.

“He was leaving the office one night and said good night to one of the sisters, and she said: ‘Good night, Archbishop.’ Then he said, ‘Good night, Dennis, and I said, ‘Good night, Archbishop,’ and then he said good night to a couple more in the office and they each said, ‘Good night Archbishop.’

“He turned around and said, ‘My goodness, we’re starting to sound like the Waltons.’ “

In White Bear Lake, Bauman said he appreciates the archbishop’s sense of humor.

“That’s why I felt free to say something like that on the altar — I almost felt compelled to say something like that — because I know he loves the give and take.”

Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt
 Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt

Flynn, successor have different styles
When Flynn retires, he’ll be succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has not been shy in discussing his very traditional interpretation of Catholic doctrine.

The two bishops each write regular columns for the Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper, and readers often note the differences in style:

Flynn, more relaxed and personable; Nienstedt, more focused on faith issues.

“He’s a very different guy [from Flynn,]” said McGrath of Nienstedt. “By the same token, some people have already made up their minds. They should wait and see.

“I was with him and his family and friends, and he was very warm and cordial,” McGrath said. “He’s not a cold man. He’s very traditional about the church and its doctrines, but that’s not the totality of his being. He’s liberal on immigration and social justice issues.”

And Nienstedt can be humorous, too, McGrath said. “Remember, even though his name is German, he’s 75 percent Irish.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Dan Hoxworth on 01/07/2008 - 04:46 pm.

    We in the East Metro have been blessed by Archbishop Flynn and his leadership. He has set a sterling example in personally living his faith’s values of social justice and empathy for the poor and in calling upon others both Catholics and not to fulfill Christ’s teachings in their lives. He has been a vocal supporter of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the dignity and worth of every human being regardless of their race, creed or color.

    He joined with Bishop Rogness of the Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to lead an effort that included the endorsement of 30 religious leaders around Minnesota to “A Common Foundation: Shared Principles for Overcoming Poverty” document.

    I hope that his leadership and example on these issues and the humanity he has brought to his position will serve as a guide to Archbishop Nienstedt and other faith leaders. He truly is one of God’s children and we are blessed to have his uplifting presence with us for so many years.

Leave a Reply