Arts, Faith and Humanities / People of SU

In Grateful Remembrance of Patrick Howell, S.J.

December 2, 2019

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Pat Howell, S.J., a Jesuit known and loved by many at Seattle University and beyond, passed away on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, at the age of 79. His full obituary can be found here.

A full professor, Father Howell taught theology for several decades. His wisdom, warmth and personal touch were well suited to the multitude of leadership positions he took on at the university, including dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, vice president for Mission and Ministry and rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community. For the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, he served as Distinguished University Professor, assistant and interim director.

The author of three books, Father Howell carried out a special ministry relating to mental illness. He was chair and general editor of Conversations magazine, published by the National Seminar in Jesuit Higher education for the 27 Jesuit universities’ faculty and staff, and this year he had been serving at Gonzaga University in support of its Jesuit mission and ministry. (Visit Conversations for a reflection on Father Howell's life and impact.)

Over the course of his many years at Seattle University, and through a variety of roles, Father Howell has been a blessing in the lives of a great many students, faculty, staff, friends of the university, and members of the broader community. As a way to honor that legacy, we invite all those who are so moved to share a very brief remembrance of their gratitude for Father Howell by sending an e-mail to (just a few sentences, please). We will gather the contributions and post them on this page in the coming days.

Gratitude for Father Pat

(Updated Feb. 11, 2020, 1:10 p.m.)

It was Pat Howell's book, As Sure as the Dawn: A Spirit Guide through Times of Darkness, that propelled me to seek further understanding of pyscho-spiritual development at SU. Graduating in 2002 with a MATS degree from STM, I have now been in nursing home ministry for 16 years, supported by Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church. Thanks, Father Howell.

- Cynthia Ellefson, Master of Arts in Transforming Spirituality, '02

I was stunned to learn of the death of Pat Howell. I had lunch with Pat in Dublin last summer, renewing a friendship which dated back to our work together on Decree 14 in GC 34 in Rome in 1995. We had corresponded and occasionally met up since then, and it was a great joy to see him again last summer. He was such a good man, generous in sharing his great gifts and his vulnerability, so proud of his large, extended family. He had a wonderfully Ignatian constructively critical love of the church and of the Society of Jesus. May he rest in peace and enjoy the fullness of life in heaven.

- Gerry O'Hanlon, S.J. (Dublin, Ireland)

I just read in the current issue of Seattle University Magazine of the passing of Fr. Pat Howell. I was in graduate school with him in theology. He was an excellent teacher and I found him very kind and caring. I had some serious health issues and he suggested I lay down in the graduate student lounge during lunch on days when I had classes all day. His was usually an afternoon class. He said to come when I was well-rested and had eaten my lunch which usually consisted of yogurt and a banana. Kindness and care were the bywords he lived by. May be rest in peace.  

- Sr. Kathy Dunne, ’94, Master of Theological Studies

I met Fr. Howell when I was a part-time student in the MAPS program. I was fortunate to be on the Board of Institute of Catholic Studies (I think that’s what it was called then); and we had extended conversations there. We then met for breakfast a few times - and had great talks about the Church, spiritual life, writing, race relations, and life in general. Embodiment of humility, wisdom and love - definitely a witness that God is real and faith makes a difference! 

- Daryl Grigsby, MAPS 2002, public works director (retired) and author

I worked with Pat for little more than 20 years. He was patient, gracious, an intentional listener, and always conscious of others. As dean, he made time to talk to everybody from all walks of life, regardless of his calendar and appointments. A person never felt rushed or pushed away, just held and welcomed. As much as he shared his endless wisdom, he could be giddy as a schoolboy. He figured out that Thursdays were my favorite days of the week (thus, when I would be most accommodating), so every Thursday morning, he jumped in front of my office door with a big smile on his face and exclaimed, “Hey Lizzie! It’s Thursday and I can ask for anything!” When I was pregnant with my firstborn, he knew before I did because, “When you’re the oldest of 9 kids, you stop wondering why Mom is running to the bathroom!” When the university didn’t offer paid maternity leave and daycares wouldn’t take infants until they were a couple months old, he helped arrange for me to bring my firstborn into the office for his first 3 months. And just when I would start to fret about the holidays, he would always sneak into my office and hand me a bonus check – reducing me to tears every time. A few months ago, he randomly appeared for a visit. It was the last time I heard his laugh - as he came in and gave me a big hug. I will miss his joy and light. 

- Lizzie Young, academic programs coordinator, School of Theology and Ministry

For 40 yrs. Pat Howell was a cherished friend and colleague of my husband, Gary Chamberlain. Following Gary's request, Pat was the wonderful, main celebrant at Gary's funeral service. Pat's kindness, help, and support made it all possible for me at that very difficult time. I am deeply grateful to him and I love him very much. He "mirrored the divine" through his wonderfully human life. Such a kind, giving, and good man.

- Sharon Chamberlain

Pat has been on my mind now for the past week since I learned of his death on Thanksgiving. I am so grateful to have known Pat as a mentor, boss, Jesuit brother, and friend. Pat and I got to know each other during my first time at Seattle University and stayed in touch while I lived in NY. He asked me to come on board working for him for Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education magazine where we worked very closely. But it was not until I moved back to Arrupe Jesuit Community at SU and was able to work with him at the ICTC that we truly deepened our relationship. It is a year that I will never forget. 

Pat fostered a team culture at ICTC that enabled us all to thrive and to have fun doing it. He encouraged us to share what we struggled with so we could help each other be strong. He brought out the best in our whole team. He also modeled how to think deeply about really difficult topics across the campus. This is something that SU desperately continues to need – people who know how to hold the space for difficult topics while also cultivating thoughtfulness and reflection. Pat always did this. Additionally, for me personally, he made sure I was doing well amidst lots of commitments, and he always did so in a way that turned my usual grumpy self into a smiling self. I have so many fond memories of simple jokes he would make that would disarm me and help me to be a more loving member of the SU community.

- Lucas Sharma, S.J., trustee, Seattle University; former lecturer, Anthropology and Sociology; former research fellow, Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture

Pat Howell, S.J., was a fierce mentor, coach, teacher, and true companion in ministry in a often messy Church. In the late '80s, Pat was our M.Div. second level Contextual Ed supervisor. It was a very challenging course for most of us accustomed to flying through. He created a safe place for us to name and examine  our vulnerabilities, challenged us to break through self- or societal-imposed barriers; he believed so deeply in each of us he kept calling us to live out of our deepest gifts, and to let nothing get in the way. He took delight in each of us and our capacities to excel as servant leaders. His integrity and his willingness to accompany us in class and many many years later have been like a beacon not just to me, and other students, but to the Church at large. Pat’s departure leaves a huge gap, but I am sure he is calling us to step into it! Rest In Peace, dear and faithful, steadfast servant.

- Patty Repikoff, MDiv, 91, pastoral advocate for mission, Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services of Western WA; adjunct faculty, School of Theology and Ministry

I met Pat Howell in 1986, when I began the M. Div. program in what was then ITS. He became many people to me: spiritual mentor, academic advisor, mental health guide and counselor, professor, and most of all, a soul-companion. In the spring of 2016, I took what was to be my last course from him: “Discernment and Decision-making.” Here is an excerpt from that paper that summarizes who is for me, and perhaps for others… 

“To me you are an artist. A shamanic artist. These are not archetypes one wants to over-identify with – or in some cases, identify with at all – because they are dangerous. The artist often has a difficult time negotiating between the seen and unseen worlds, sometimes confusing one for the other. S/he brings forth what others cannot see but need to be made aware of in order to live a fuller, more human life. While the shaman, often without choosing, must be plunged into a whirlwind, limb-tearing darkness if s/he is to fulfill the call to heal and provide integrating energy for others. One seldom chooses this path in one’s right mind – and only in hindsight. To possess both qualities (or archetypes) is to (nearly) forever stand at the threshold of this world and other worlds. It requires constant attention, discipline and humility. It “ain’t easy.” While the unconscious is ever present, beckoning, guiding, and at times, taunting and grabbing us by the nap of our neck and pulling us down into itself, it is not something to approach without deep reverence. Always one is wounded; always one encounters the overwhelming dimensions (unless one chooses the path of numbness and addiction); always one is cleared out and made new if contained within the “tripartite bridge.” Keating and Rumi come to mind when I think of your journey and the “rough-hewn” gift of Spiritguide.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
      A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
      Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
      The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
      Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

- Paul Peterhans, M.Div. ’93, theology teacher, Seattle Preparatory School

Great risks were indeed taken, and Pat, you led the way. Thanks for your warmth, wisdom, and wit. Your life was a blessing.

- Mimi Krsak, '73, '79

Fr. Howell was a gem of a human being. His knowledge, vulnerability, humility, optimism, and humor shone through in all our interactions. I had the privilege of getting to know him better over the last year when he co-facilitated a session on discernment for the Albers School as well as a month-long retreat on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. In addition, we ran into each other a lot at campus events, especially those hosted by the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture. In fact, he used to pull my leg that an event wasn’t official until I showed up, which was his extremely kind way of making me feel special and welcome. In return, I would demand my weekly hug from him, and he would give me one. I will miss this wonderful brother of ours and especially the warm and generous fellowship that we shared, but I know that he is in a better place, and that I will see him again when the time is right. Missing you much, Fr. Howell, as I send you this hug.  

- Ajay Abraham, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Albers School of Business and Economics

Father Pat, you were and will continue being an inspiration to many people. Your class on Vatican II, your vocation, and the values that you modeled lit the fire of the Spirit within me and I am forever grateful, and I pray that I see you again one day in Heaven. May you rejoice in your eternal reward. 

- Paulina Alvarado, former student, MAPS program; current chaplain resident at St. Joseph Medical Center

Pat Howell, Bob Larson and I, James Stark, were the "three amigos" of the racquetball courts in the Connolly Center for many years. We met up two or three times a week and played "cut throat" or two against one. After a summer he spent in California playing with some really good players, he came back and gave Bob and me a tutorial on the game. Pat had a ready laugh and was a generous winner and gracious non-winner. I always looked forward to  conversing with him at various functions on campus after I retired and very much enjoyed the structure and depth of his homilies at his masses. He is very much missed. May he rest in peace.  

- James Stark, professor emeritus, Modern Languages and Cultures

Pat worked with me in BUAD 1000, Integration of Business, as we delivered the class, "Vocation of the Business Leader." Pat was warm, caring, and sincere. The students recognized and appreciated that. In our efforts together, I found him demonstrating thoughtfulness and kindness, reminding me of the importance of these qualities in leadership.

- Joe Barnes, senior instructor, Department of Marketing, Albers School of Business and Economics

My deep thanks to Pat for choosing to share so transparently his struggle with a mental breakdown many years ago. The grace of that sharing touched countless people through his writings, retreats, everyday encounters and accompanying people in spiritual direction. Pat embodies for me “The glory of God is the human person fully alive!” 

- Sr. Judy Ryan, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

Father Patrick Howell was a spiritual giant. Those of us blessed to know him experienced a man of deep integrity, intellect, compassion, and soul. Godspeed, Father Pat. You will be missed! 

- John Jacob Zucker Gardiner, professor emeritus, College of Education

Fr. Howell was the rector at Arrupe House when I came to Seattle University in 2012. He welcomed me so warmly and helped me navigate the Jesuit Catholic culture and customs at the university. When I participated in the Ignatian Colleagues Program, Fr. Howell encouraged me to write an article on discerning finances for Conversations magazine. I agreed and immediately regretted the decision thinking I wasn’t up to the task. But with Fr. Howell’s support and encouragement, and his exceptional editing skills, the article became a reality. I have such fond memories of the time I spent with Fr. Howell.  He was an inspiration. 

- Connie Kanter, former CFO and senior vice president of Finance and Business Affairs

I only had the privilege of getting to know Fr. Pat this past year at SU. I was struck by his warmth, inclusiveness, and humility. He shared his own story of growth and adversity which served as an instrument for learning as he demonstrated his own vulnerability openly to others. By sharing these characteristics it created a ripple , much like a pebble dropped into water, where both safety and courage were modeled and encouraged for others to equally demonstrate. His legacy will have a lasting impact. 

- Michelle Clements, vice president, Human Resources

As a Visiting Scholar in Catholic Studies in the first year of ICTC in 2013-14, Father Pat Howell was notable among the many gracious and thoughtful people I came to know and appreciate at Seattle University. When I later returned on some shorter visits, his organizing and encouraging of a reading group on the Catholic intellectual tradition, along with Father Peter Ely, was positively inspirational. He had that distinct Jesuit combination of intellectual and spiritual depth with real practical savvy. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

- Mel Piehl, senior research professor of humanities and history, Christ College, Valparaiso University

Fr. Howell was the heart and soul of Seattle University for many years. He was a great Jesuit and priest and will be greatly missed. Lord, bless him with peace, rest, and joy forever!

- Fr. William Heric, pastor, St. Bridget Catholic Church

I am most grateful to Fr. Pat for his insights, mission and vision around the issues of depression and mental illness. Several years ago I visited with Fr. Pat to seek some advice to me regarding a family member. Every time I saw Fr. Pat in other events he would ask me how things were going. I deeply appreciated his compassionate concern. May Pat Rest In Peace knowing he has made a difference in many people’s lives.

- Sr. Beatrice LaFramboise, Sisters of Providence

Fr. Pat was among the most thoughtful and kindest men I have ever met. My heart aches now that he is no longer with us.

- Steen Halling, professor emeritus, Department of Psychology

I was supposed to go and just meet him. Well, that day, after we talked, he called and offered me a job as his administrative coordinator. He was the best boss one could have. It was an honor to work for him. We shared a wonderful and joyful friendship. I will miss his laugh, his knowledge, his compassion, his presence. My friend was a gift, and for that I am grateful. 

- Kathy Kirschner, former administrative coordinator, Mission and Ministry

On the 1990 SU Ignatian Silent Retreat, Pat broke ground in empowering the laity to the team, re-directed my life of faith that called me to ministry. He was a believer in us: the Ecumenical Christians, the women in the church, the vulnerable, and the mentally ill. Pat mentored Joe in his mission, baptized our girls, loved my Lutheran mother and their shared, Dakota roots. He brought me the spirit of healing and wholeness at a desperate time. I will always thank you, Pat-visionary leader, source of strength, faithful pastor, family friend. You will be with me to the end of my days! 

- Carla Orlando, Ignatian Spirituality Center

Fr. Howell offered a kind word or glance each time I saw him. I am grateful for his vision to provide spiritually-integrated care for those experiencing emotional and spiritual chaos.  Seattle University’s Couples and Family program is committed to living out his vision to provide transformative clinical services to promote healing, health, and dignity for individuals and relationships.

- Christie Eppler, director, Master of Arts in Couples and Family Therapy, School of Theology and Ministry

“I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.” - Afterglow

This short remembrance poem by Helen L. Marshall is how I imagine my friend and colleague Fr. Pat Howell, SJ would want to be remembered. It’s an ideal eulogy poem for someone who has given unforgettable memories, love, and joy. Fr. Pat and I first met in 1990 when I came to SU.

He was/is the embodiment of the Spirit of Vatican II.

We sense that in losing him, we have lost not only the man but also his unique way of manifesting God. The voice that spoke of God, encouraged young Jesuits and lay collaborators, reminded us of the best of our Catholic Tradition, and offered comfort to people suffering from both inner and outer trials, has been silenced.

I wish to thank Fr. Pat, belatedly, for his life as a dedicated priest, friend, colleague, and godfather to my daughter Gabriella.

We will all miss Fr. Pat here, and we will rely on his continued help from the next life.

- Jeanette Rodriguez, interim director, Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture

I am a student in the Couples and Family Therapy program at Seattle University. I finish my program in March, so I have been deeply embedded in it for the last few years. Though I have not personally met Fr. Howell, I am so sorry about your loss. His vision to create this program was a great one. I chose this program precisely because of his vision and I have not been disappointed. I hope to continue his vision in my own calling as I move into my own practice this coming year. His legacy extends outward as each of us will be continuing his vision as we serve those who are hurting in our own community.

- Jeanne Jankus, graduate student, School of Theology and Ministry

Pat had a beautiful and powerful impact on my life over nearly thirty years of friendship. We always shared a love of Ignatian spirituality and faith and justice, and I cherish all the ways he encouraged and supported me in my ministry. How many retreats we were on together over the years! And how many conversations, creative efforts, insights, shared laughs, and wise counsel mark these three decades with Pat! His inspiration will continue to remain with me…He also was a great friend to our family, baptizing our daughters and sharing many key moments of life with Carla and me. I shall be forever grateful for his companionship, his example, his generosity and his goodness...a true blessing in my life.

- Joe Orlando, director, Center for Jesuit Education

I participated in a retreat on campus this past year with Father Pat and other colleagues who I now call friends. The retreat itself spanned several weeks and was a rich blessing in my life. But an even more lasting gift is that, after the retreat ended, the 10 of us in the group kept in touch – connecting in person for coffee and prayer, and encouraging each other by email. Father Pat’s kindness, humor, and presence have meant so much to me. I’m very grateful to have gotten to know him through that meaningful experience. Thank you, Father Pat, for all you have done to enrich our lives! Your love for God and for others shined so bright.

- Erin Fullner, senior associate director, Center for Professional Development, School of Law

Several years (and faculty appointments) ago, I had the privilege of team-teaching an undergraduate hybrid course titled, Leaders for a Just and Humane World, with Fr. Pat Howell, S.J. for the School of New and Continuing Studies at Seattle U. At every stage in the process - from co-authoring the course proposal to co-managing the Canvas course shell, which he had designed with CDLI - Pat was the consummate theological educator and colleague, modeling an appropriate mix of wit, wisdom, and intellectual wonder. Many of the post-traditional students in our class, especially those who self-identified as "spiritual but not religious," noted how Pat's professorial "way" embodied the very best of what a world-affirming Catholic Christianity could be. More recently, Pat generously hosted my wife and me for dinner at the Della Strada Jesuit Community to help welcome us to Gonzaga University. Rest in paradise, Pat. Your life-affirming leadership across time, space, and place left an indelible mark on the hearts of many. I am deeply grateful to be among them.

- Dung Q. Tran, former inaugural instructor of Organizational Leadership in the School of New and Continuing Studies; current assistant professor in the M.A. in Organizational Leadership program at Gonzaga University; and incoming web and associate editor of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education

Pat knew the power of good storytelling. He was also a mentor for importance of knowing a person’s whole story. Countless times, I was touched by Pat’s kindness, his humor and his strength of spirit.

- Sarah Finney, senior director, Office of Gift Planning

I remember him writing me a letter of support for tenure when he was VP for Mission and Ministry. His generosity and support helped me participate in many opportunities that formed me in things Jesuit and Ignatian. 

As I think about him now so many things come to me. Most immediately I think of the sharpness of his intellect and his deep love and commitment to Seattle University and Jesuit Higher Education. When he first joined the ICTC as distinguished professor in residence, I was admittedly intimidated by the thought of the presence of such an established and respected leader in the very area I was hoping to make an impact. I was afraid I would have to lead in his shadow, but that never happened. He very intentionally stepped back to make sure I had the room I needed to grow into my own leadership. As I did, I always knew he was nearby cheering me on and supporting me in all my efforts. While I suspect he did not always agree with everything I did, I knew he always had my back. 

In all the years that we worked together at the ICTC, he would always remind me to slow down and take care of myself even as he encouraged me every step of the way. He would consistently suggest that I cut back activities and programs so as not overwork myself as he watched me add on initiatives. Knowing this made me smile when he added opportunities to a full year when he stepped in as director when I went on sabbatical. His passion for the work and desire to step into the need ensured he would do what had to be done in a given moment. In a truly Jesuit fashion, he stepped in where he was needed and as he was called. 

What a profound loss, especially for those of us who have had the privilege of counting him as friend. What a loss for Gonzaga and Seattle U. What a loss for Jesuits, especially Jesuits West. What a loss for the church, especially in Washington State. 

I will spend the coming days contemplating this loss, remembering his life with gratitude and being assured that he is now in the loving arms of the One to whom he dedicated his life. Rest in peace, dear Pat. Many hearts will hold you with love and gratitude today and always. 

- Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, former director, Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture; and current assistant to the president for mission integration at the University of Detroit Mercy

I wanted to share a few brief thought on Fr. Pat Howell. I was so very sorry to hear of his passing over the weekend. I found him to be a thoughtful, congenial and supportive person. I enjoyed working with him in several roles he had over my time here at Seattle U., from his time as Rector of Arrupe House to his leadership of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture and his role as Editor of Conversations magazine. Fr. Pat actively reached out to engage me personally in the Ignatian mission of the university and connect me directly to the Jesuit community here on campus in ways that made a real difference for me. I know it is not for us to choose our time, but I presumed he would be with us at Seattle U in a range of roles for more years ahead. I have said a prayer of thanksgiving for him and will miss him.

- David Powers, dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Humble, folksy, joyous, insightful, deeply spiritual, authentic and wise. I always enjoyed getting together for lunch with Father Pat and sharing stories. As two native Midwesterners we enjoyed reflecting on the flyover zone. Miss you so much, Pat.

- Kent Koth, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement

Pat was one of my most important mentors three decades ago, as I transitioned from being a lawyer into ministry and teaching. His gentle but VERY strong guidance, steeped in his own vulnerability, broke through my defenses and rendered me open to God in a new and vital way. Pat embodied the absolute best of Jesuit spirituality, firmly rejecting the drive to "perfection" in favor of the deep practice of embodied Love. I will miss him greatly. 

- Wes Howard-Brook, senior instructor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Pat Howell was my liturgy professor at the School of Theology and Ministry, my boss' boss as the Vice President of Mission and Ministry at Seattle University, and eventually a colleague when he worked at ICTC. Throughout the whole time I have known him, the words that come to me to describe him are "warm" and "wise."  I am grateful for the sense that I always had that he respected and appreciated me and my gifts in every conversation with me and I'm sure, everyone he encountered. His death feels too sudden. He will be dearly missed.

- Andrea Fontana, former STM student and campus minister; and current program coordinator at the Ignatian Spirituality Center

Fr. Pat was a spiritual director and mentor to me for ten years. He was always kind and supportive, never judgemental. I always felt that he had my back, believed in me, and wished me the best. May I endeavor to follow this example with my students. Thanks for your example, Fr. Pat.

- Serena Cosgrove, assistant professor, International Studies, and faculty coordinator, Central America Initiative