See the work of past students of Don Huntimer!

 

 

 

 

 

 


“IMAGINATION
is more important than knowledge.
Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
- Albert Einstein


 

— M I L E S T O N E S
On January 29, 2006, Father Don Huntimer celebrated his 77th birthday with friends, colleagues and loved ones in his Sonoran desert community of Tucson, Arizona. Join us in wishing this wonderful artist and spiritual leader a year filled with joy, peace, friends, health and creativity. We look forward to the many paintings to fill our eyes with wonder in the year to come!


Father Don Huntimer and Bishop Francis Quinn
on the artist's birthday, January 29 of 2006.

LIFE SKETCH

Biographies are often made up only of comprehensive lists of a person's accomplishments and credentials, which are true enough in fact. But such information are only the paints on the pallette. We need to look deeper to appreciate the full beauty of the canvas and the life that created it. Without looking at the painting of that life, we would fail to see the true picture of the journey. So as we begin to get to know the artist and the soul of the man, we first look to the pallette of the road markers of the many accomplishments and work histories - and then we look at the full canvas to find the roads less traveled. These are the brushes that have taken paint to palette and transformed an individual from the vision they had in the beginning to what they have become. The life lived is the greatest painting of all.

So we draw first our outline sketch of the life highways of Don Huntimer in order that in following it, we will find the magnificent colors, passions and feelings that paint the full picture of a life filled with many highways, by-ways and pathways, nooks and crannies into the mind and heart of this spiritual explorer. With brush in hand, he paints for us the travels of his heart and soul. In so doing, he enriches us with vast and wonderous experiences, wisdoms and insights and the colors reflected in each day as it is done.

“... I took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference...”


 

 

Painting is the grandchild of Nature.
It is related to God.”

— Rembrandt

Sketch notes on the life of artist
Donald W. Huntimer, CSV

The PALLETTE & COLORS
of LIFE EXPERIENCE

EDUCATION
• B.A. Liberal Arts, Loyola University of Chicago, 1954
• M.A. History, Loyola University of Chicago, 1961
• M.A. Religious Education (Institute of Pastoral Studies), Loyola University of Chicago, 1969
• 1955-59 Viatorian Major Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois
• 1959 Ordination to Priesthood
• 1960-1967 Attended Summer Biblical Institutes, Glen Ellen, Illinois
• Summer 1969 - Certified Facilitator, Center for Studies of the Person, La Jolla, California
• Expressive Arts Student 1971-1974 California State College, Sonoma
• An EST (Erhard Seminars Training) graduate March 8, 1974, followed by 2 years of attending EST seminars
• Student at Old College, Reno, Nevada, 1981-1982
• 1983-1984 U.C. Berkeley: California Jesuit School of Theology's Institute for Spirituality and Worship

TEACHING EXPERIENCE
• 1959-1967 Taught History and Religion on the High School level in the Chicago area
• 1967-1969 Director of Adult Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago
• 1969-1975 Founder and Director of the Newman Center for California State College, Sonoma. During this time Fr. Don was guest lecturer in the Philosophy, Psychology, English and Education Departments
• 1976-1982 Taught Sacred Scripture Classes at the Center for Religion and Life, and at Our Lady of Wisdom Church in Reno, Nevada.

VOCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
• 1960-1962 Vocational Counselor at Marian High School, Chicago Heights, Illinois
• 1960-1962 Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, Chicago Heights, Illinois
• 1962-1967 Chaplain for Christian Family Movement, Arlington Heights, Illinois
• 1962-1967 Trained adults to be CCD teachers of religion
• 1972-1973 Employed by the Hidden Talent Program at California State College, Sonoma, to counsel Hidden Talent students
• 1970-1972 Served on the planning committee for the city of Cotati, California
• 1976-1979 Co-Director, The Center for Religion and Life, Reno, Nevada
• 1976-1983 Pastor, Our Lady of Wisdom Parish, Reno, Nevada
• 1984-1988 Pastor, Santa Ysabel Indian Mission
• 1988-1989, Associate Pastor, Saint Viator Parish, Las Vegas, Nevada.
• 1990-PRESENT: Chaplain for Arizona State Prisons and for the Pima County Jails in Tucson, Arizona
• 1992-PRESENT: Chaplain for the Benedictine Monastery in Tucson, Arizona .
 

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST

INTRODUCTION

What calls a person to their purpose? What calls them to their pathway when they are young - to the road that leads them to their chosen destiny? Although a complex series of experiences and one's role within their family and community environment sets the stage for opportunities, there is something more at work. There is the living spirit - the heart and soul of the person - that makes all the difference. Each child in a family is unique and each interprets things from their own spiritual perspective, internalizing the world around them with a new sense of purpose, a new and unique series of questions and answers that is theirs alone. Their place in the family, the place on the map that they were born, the tone of the home and their relationship to their community and the natural world all work as the pallette and the paints. But each soul paints an individual masterpiece.

For the artist's life itself IS the art. The artist reflects it back from a sense of vision so that others can see what they see. But that concept of 'seeing what the artist sees' is not to be misinterpreted with what the artist sees with his eyes. Rather, we are given privelege to see what the artist sees with his heart, and that is a place of feeling. In connecting to the vision of the heart of the artist, we are able to connect with feelings ourselves which have perhaps remained dormant since childhood or maybe even never felt before at all. We are called to reflection of our own place in the universe, with our own inner spirit and are ignited to questions and answers which might have eluded our focus. We are asked to see with our own hearts when the artist shares his and it falls within our gaze.

The spirit of the artist is evident in even the smallest child that is driven by these internal splendors. The artist's heart begins as one that is open to wonders and reaches for meaning in even the smallest things - whether they are things in nature or experiences. For the artist FEELS and when that depth of feeling is given the opportunity to blossom, the flower that blooms is the soul of an artist.

In The Beginning...

On a cold South Dakota winters' day in January of 1929, Donald William Huntimer came into the world, a delightful package of promise and hope for his parents Mae and Walter. His place in the family was number seven out of the eventual nine that would be born to the couple. The loss of brother Vernon, two years before Don was born, left a tremendous mark on the heart of the family. Although Don never had a chance to meet Vernon personally, this older brother remained present in the deepest ways that count and his influence was felt just the same as if he had remained physically present. So Don grew up the 7th of nine children, with Vernon's influence just as significant as the other siblings.

One might presume that the idea of finding independence in such a large gathering of children might be difficult if not impossible. But such is never the case with the heart of one driven from within to the passion of purpose. If anything, such a place in the family could create a natural innerspace of reflection and wonder, for the interior spaces of thought are the only things that are ever one's own in a household with so many brothers and sisters. And so it was with young Don.

In the 1930s, most mothers in rural America still made much of their children's clothing. Toys were often made by the child's imagination from a box, crate or tool in the barn. And families grew and canned their own food. Life in South Dakota for young Don was all of this and there was never a lack of things needing to be done. With the children all taking care of their chores and schoolwork as well as looking out for one another, helping mother with the housework and father with the farming, there was responsibility and a sense of duty and purpose right from the start, along with the natural wonders of the child's heart. But while sharing so many things - a room with siblings, toys, hand-me downs from the older children, chores and responsibilities - this young boy had the advantage of discovering naturally very early on where to go within and how to get there to carve a place for a personal inner sanctuary that was all his own.

A strong connection to God and sense of belonging to something greater than himself was the broth for the soup of this strong family. Countless hours working the fields as a young farmhand gave young Don time to cultivate those fields within where seeds were being planted that would grow into the life of a priest, a visionary, a philosopher, a teacher and an artist. This was rich ground. The soil of the South Dakota landscape was rich in nutrients for the growing heart of this boy. Don cultivated a deep longing for answers to his spiritual questions along with his deep love for God, which was nurtured.

Along with the duties of daily life and the responsibilities in the field when Don was not going to school, there was something else at work. The landscape was becoming a part of the boy. The changing of the seasons filled his senses along with the vast and wide skies above the fields and the distant mountains on the horizons. The pastels with which God painted the South Dakota landscape in which he had placed Don, filled the young boy and nourished his spirit. The rich smells of the dirt and the winds worked a magic in his soul. The aroma of Sping with its fields of greens, trees awakening from winter and the smell of blossoms in the wind became a part of the pallette. These were the scents of new life, new beginnings and the colors of hope in the young painter's tools.

The night skies above his place in the landscape were a wonder to this young boy as well. The Milky Way was almost solid white, reaching all the way to the horizon on a moonless night. A summers' night with the warm winds blowing the curtains gently, called young Don to look out, look up and reach for the heavens. He connected to the universe in a way that affected him spiritually and this would later become visible to us in his paintings of the galaxies and nebulas. The night skies were another set of colors in his growing palette that would paint this life.

The fragrance of Fall was in sharp contrast to that of the spring. The harvest time smelled dry but the sweet, musty scents went deep into Don's inner library from which he would draw for inspiration in the years to come. Even when the family had moved to the city, the shades of autumn remained evident and added to the richness of this growing boy's palette. The autumn hues would become the colors of change, of letting go, of a peace, of a season well lived and of the reflection of the days just past. All of these things filled Don with a wonder and an awe in between the serious work at hand, whether it be the labors in the field or his studies in school. Always there was a noticing of colors, of fragrances and a search for the meaning behind the form.

Winters were yet another spiritual change and as the outer landscape filled with white and the blanket of silence comforted the earth sleeping below, young Don would find himself again taking in all the world around him. While communities drew in their harvest during the Fall, few knew then that what Don had been collecting and storing away for the days ahead were the colors that would remind us all of all the seasons of the heart and the beauty of the creation now at rest underneath the snow. What he was collecting was the rich harvest of the spirit, and storing it away until it was needed for the life of rich experiences which was coming.

Visual impressions made lasting impact on the heart of this young man more than most, perhaps in part because of a significant hearing loss that became evident early in his childhood. It is said that when one of our senses is impaired, another will become more heightened, and perhaps this was part of the reason that color, form, shape, contrast and images spoke so loudly to young Don's heart. With many of the sounds of the outside world silenced, the beauty of the world around him spoke to the boy clearly. With the visual impression more profound than the audible one, it is perhaps a significant loss of sound that played one of the most significant parts in creating the painter.

And so a young artist began to form within the quiet place in which he lived. Where some might call such hearing loss a disability or even a handicap, the natural blanket of silence which fell on much of Don's world allowed him to perceive the sounds of the soul, which called him to deeper reflection. The yearning for the spiritual life bubbled up from this reflective place and creative energy came with it. The artist and the priest to come were not separate but one in the same spirit, the message differing only in the venue of expression.

These spiritual and artist energies were encouraged by Don's mother's wonderful influence. She was herself an artist and a musician as well as a spiritually driven woman of tremendous compassion. Mae had known great personal loss growing up and had endured the ultimate tragedy of losing a child, but from this grief grew a great and loving heart. Don was encouraged by his mother to follow his heart in whatever direction it would take him. She appreciated his sensitive nature and his natural calling to things reflective - things of a spiritual nature which she understood.

Don's school years were influenced by some wonderful nuns who surely played a very important role in his growing resolve to eventually join the priesthood. But the idea first struck his heart one day in July of 1939. The ten year old boy attended the first mass led by his cousin, Father Harold Kehrwald, CSsR and sometime during the service there came a moment when the dye was cast. This calling he kept in the secret vault of his soul for a long time. He did not mention it to anyone until he was in the eighth grade in 1943, when he sent a letter of his dreams of becoming a priest to Fr. Harold.

In his junior year, with the pressing upon his heart the gentle but persistat calling from within to serve God with his life, Don gathered the courage to tell the pastor, Fr. Henry Kolbeck. Expecting words of encouragement and welcome, the young man received words reflecting the harsh reality of the times: he would never be able to become a priest because of his hearing loss. The news was devistating but Don would not go down without a full effort to follow his passion and calling and thus follow his heart.

His cousin Fr. Harold encouraged Don to go to the Seminary of the Redemptorists, which he did for the next 3 years. He found he fit in well with the 250 other semarinarians at St. Joseph's College and this first experience away from home was filled with great promise. However, by the end of the third year, the questions about serving as a hearing impaired priest had moved to the top of concerns, and thoughts about his future and loss of a vocational life were a constant worry. There were no seminarians in those days that wore hearing aids. There was concern that Don would not be able to hear confessions and thus his abilities to perform the duties as a priest would be marginalized. After having his hearing tested and being told he needed to be fitted for hearing aids, the school suggested that he simply finish out the year as he could not go on to the priesthood.

As children, we come to form who we are by defining those things in the world that resonate with our souls. We reach for those things while envisioning our place in the world, and literally mold the sculpture of our future from the clay of our living spirit that knows it has a place and a purpose and a need for expression. The ten year old boy, while watching his cousin perform mass, recognized this as his own calling and held it quietly inside for a long time before sharing it with anyone. There in the silence of the heart, the desire grew from year to year from a dream to a vision. And the vision grew to a knowing that never let go. When he finally took the first huge steps to manifesting this vision into reality by going away to school at St. Josephs, it seemed so close within reach. One can only imagine the heartbreaking blow by being told that there was no place for a young priest with a hearing loss.

But dreams die hard and visions cannot be silenced by the outside world. The calling to the priesthood is not one that is ultimately in the control of those in charge of the church. Such callings are divine in nature and one way or another, they must be answered by those feeling the pressing of God upon the heart. There is no other way for the person driven by inner direction. To be told, for example, that a sailor must never sail in a boat is no different than to tell a bird he mustn't fly. There simply had to be a way.

Divine Intervention Steps In

The young man so filled with a broken heart's longing returned to South Dakota. Shortly after, he received a fine letter of recommendation from Fr. Martin Berry, CSsR who was the Rector of St. Joseph's Seminary. Encouraged, Don wasted no time in showing it to his parish priest, Fr. Henry Kolbeck. Father Kolbeck was the one who first told Don that he could not become a priest because of his hearing loss. But upon reading such a glowing recommendation from Fr.Berry, the priest was called to reflect his own initial reactions to God's call upon the heart of the
young man standing before him. Examining himself as well as the very impressive letter from Fr. Berry, He volunteered to personally drive Don to Sioux Falls to show the letter to Bishop Hoch of the Sioux Falls, S.D. diocese.

With renewed vigor, enthusiasm and hope, Don affirmed that he would indeed take the letter to Bishop Hoch. A heart renewed with hope fills the spirit with purpose, direction, energy and great joy in anticipation of
things to come. Although it appeared that Don's future rested on good hearts of the men in charge, he knew that ultimately it is God that calls. If the young man's calling was true, God would open the doors.

Bishop Hoch was so impressed with the letter that right away. to Don's great surprise and joy, immediately after the interview he was accepted and was told he would begin his training at St. Thomas Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota in September. One cannot measure the strength of heart that hope refills. All the doors seemed wide open now when only
days before the gloom of defeat clouded every aspiration. In those days, most physical handicaps were considered true "dis-abilities" - that is, if one
did not have the ability to use one or another limb or senses, the entire person was considered disabled and shut out from opportunity. In the days before wheelchair access was required in public buildings, before parking spaces were reserved for the handicapped, before crossing signals made noise for the blind and sign language was provided in lecture halls for the
hearing impaired, most people with physical limitations, however minor, were left out. We take for granted these things today that override the
limitations of our own prejudices and ignorance about the physical challenges facing so many of us. But in the time of young Don Huntimer (and not so long ago!), this news was ground-breaking. A priest with severe hearing loss seemed nothing short of divine intervention!

So Don prepared for the coming Fall by filling his mind with the dreams of days to come. He replayed the memory over and over again of the interview with Bishop Hoch and the moment of elation when he was accepted into the seminary program. He replayed as well the moment when he was told he could never be a priest, feeling again the sting of reality when he was seemingly being denied his own future, only to become
elated as the new reality set in. He would be a priest! He would be going to Minnesota come September!

That was his intention anyway. But the Divine Play is a drama unfolding and shortly the road would lead in a new direction. Looking back now, it seems already that God had his own plans for Don all lined up. Things
began to change and fall into place in a way that no one could have foreseen. A family picnic was held one Sunday afternoon when Don's two sisters could attend. They had become Presentation nuns and were stationed in Mitchell, South Dakota that summer. One of his sisters mentioned that a nun (also a cousin), Sr. Mildred Sullivan, PBVM, was working at St. Joseph's Hospital there in Mitchell and she wanted
to see Don.

He soon found himself on his way to St. Joseph's and she took the young man post haste to be introduced to Fr. Donald Glynn, CSV, the Chaplain for the hospital. Sister Mildred found Fr. Glynn having his dinner at the hospital and introduced Don to the chaplain. Fr. Glynn welcomed the young man and generously insisted that Don take his ice cream desert. The Father began talking about the "Viatorians," of whom Don had never heard. He told Don that they sent their seminarians to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., going on and on about this group in an animated and enthusiastic manner. Don's interest was peaked,
and finally he told Fr. Glynn that if he didn't stop talking about them, that he would want to join them!

Fr. Glynn beamed with delight. He said he was leaving for his vacation in Chicago shortly and that he would talk to the Provincial, Fr. John Brown, CSV and to Fr. Harold Thompson, CSV who was the Vocation Director.
Gone were the days of discouragement, replaced not only by hope, but now by the support of the religious community. Doors were opening where no doors had been before. Fr. Glynn took the news to Chicago and
impressed upon his colleagues of the fine character and recommendations for this landmark candidate. Because he was already accepted for the Sioux Falls Diocese, they did not hesitate in responding in the affirmative and recommended that Don come as soon as possible to be accepted for the novitiate class beginning on August 16th. 1950.

Don followed the change of plans that intervened and boarded a train for Chicago, arriving on August 5th. He found himself surrounded by his new religious family, filled with support and new direction. He was surprised to discover that Fr. John Tobin, CSV, a cousin of his mother, was a Viatorian. . And he remembers the Novice Master, Fr.Francis DesLauries, CSV, as a wonderful person, ready to encourage this candidate with open arms and an open heart. Don's novitiate training began on August 16, 1950 and after a year as a novice Don Huntimer was accepted as a member of the Clerics of St. Viator Religious Community on August 15, 1951, of which he is still a member.

The divine hand, which leads each of us if we but reach up to take it, calls each of us to our unique and individual role in life. If we follow the doors
that open before us, using the discernment of our heart's pull to feel what we are being led to do, we can only embark on what is right and good for not only ourselves but for those around us. The things that weigh us down are lack of hope, discouragement and sorrow, which can keep us from our own destinies. But Don did not give in to discouragement and those that
came to his aide saw his devotion to his calling to serve God and responded to that hopeful heart. By not giving into the negative input of others, which is so easy to do in this world and therefore rendering
ourselves impotent to move forward towards that which is our best path, we not only change the course of our own lives but we can therefore help others. There is no finer example of this than the young priest who could not hear the outside world, but could hear God's call upon his heart quite clearly. He listened to that alone, and therefore others could hear it as well who were willing to listen. And that made all the difference.

Please come back soon...

This biography is work in progress!

MORE TO COME...