Died 28 November 2019
Jesuit Father Patrick Joseph Howell, priest, brother, uncle, friend, a man of God and disciple of God to others, died on Nov. 28, 2019, in Spokane, Washington, due to complications from lung cancer. Pat started his earthly journey with Joe and Virginia Howell on June 9, 1940, in Lisbon, North Dakota.
His passage on earth included many island-like stops in this archipelago of life. Early years included stays in Duluth, Minnesota, Hettinger, North Dakota, and Renton, Washington, before his family settled back in Lisbon when he was 8. He attended St. Aloysius elementary school and then Lisbon High School where he participated in plays and football before graduating as the class valedictorian in 1958. He worked in his dad’s drug store and the small community’s JC Penny store, learning the fine art of hosting and taking care of customers.
After graduation, he immersed himself in college life and the honors program at Gonzaga University in Spokane. In three years and one summer, he completed his bachelor’s degree in math. During that same journey, the call to religious life, beckoning occasionally through the years, became formative in his thoughts and future (“A thirst is my soul for the living God.” (Psalm 42)). He joined the Jesuit order as a scholastic at the novitiate in Sheridan, Oregon in 1961. The novitiate, high on a hill 50 miles inland from the Pacific set on nearly 900 acres of forested land, allowed for frugal, disciplined, and contemplative training.
Three short years later, Pat was off to Weston College, a Jesuit affiliate of Boston College to obtain a Masters in English Literature and continue studies in philosophy. At Weston, Pat, along with 200 plus other Jesuits, conversed and became aware of significant changes coming to the Catholic Church. Then in 1966, Pat returned to the Northwest for his high school teaching regency at Jesuit High in Portland, Oregon, where he honed his skill at captivating an audience. Also, as the student newspaper advisor, he took advantage of a Wall Street Journal student newspaper advisory program to learn the ins and outs of news gathering and publication – a skill he utilized effectively over the years.
In 1969 Pat transferred to Rome to study theology where he met church leaders even the Pope. There he followed changes happening within the church in response to the second Vatican Council, as leadership struggled between past traditions and new risks that were to be taken.
Then, in 1972 he returned to the States, participated in his pre-ordination retreats, and was ordained in a ceremony held with friends, family and Jesuits at St. Aloysius Church in his hometown of Lisbon. The Jesuits then appointed him Vice-Principal for academics at Jesuit High School, Portland. Over the next year or two, Pat struggled with significant mental issues, was helped immensely by his doctor, and eventually shared this experience with all through his book titled “Reducing the Storm to a Whisper”.
In 1978, Pat was named principal of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane and served there for the next 5 years, a time he recalled being some of the best 5 years of his life. Pat then continued his education on pastoral theology at the University of Chicago and later at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., receiving a doctorate in ministry of pastoral theology.
Following this time, he moved to Seattle University in 1985 and joined a new program titled Institute for Theological Studies. He reflected that he could not have been in a better place, joining a dynamic faculty creating a whole new chapter in the Catholic Church and working to validate a faith that does Justice. Pat eventually became Vice President for Mission and Ministry.
Over his years at Seattle University Pat garnered several accolades and responsibilities. Besides teaching theology at Seattle U for several decades, he was a Full Professor, Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, Rector of the Arrupe Jesuit Community, Distinguished University Professor, Assistant and Interim Director of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, author of two additional books, and carried out a special ministry relating to mental illness. For 9 years, he wrote columns, along with other faith leaders, about religion and spirituality for the Faith and Values section of the Seattle Times. He also served on the editorial board of America magazine, the national publication for the Jesuits, and assisted three others in making the first translation of Pope Francis’s first interview to English. Afterwards, he traveled to relay the Pope’s message to community and faith groups in the Northwest. He was chair and general editor of Conversations magazine since 2000.
In 2019, shortly after publication of his last book, Great Risks had to be Taken, Pat moved to Gonzaga University as special assistant for Jesuit formation of faculty and staff in support of Jesuit mission and ministry. He retained position at Seattle University as distinguished Professor.
He is already immensely missed by the Jesuit community, friends, and his siblings and their families: Mike (Kela; Angie, Kris, Michael, and Mindy), Bill (Lynette; Andrea, Kim, Erika, Brock, and Bryn), Margaret Zidon (Tom; Jeanine, Jennifer, Joe, Katie, and Sarah), Tom (Kathleen; Sean), Joe (Carmen; Matt, Chris, Katie, and Paige), Dan, Cathy Howey (Arden; Teresa, Andy, Melissa, and Pat), and Ginny Heinitz (Neil; David and John). He was preceded in death by his parents.