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8/13/2014 10:23:00 AM
Priest returns to parish of his youth
Catholic Sentinel photo by Jose Salame
Msgr. Richard Huneger has since moved to his boyhood parish, St. Joseph in Salem.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Jose Salame
Msgr. Richard Huneger has since moved to his boyhood parish, St. Joseph in Salem.

SALEM — St. Joseph Parish this summer welcomed a new priest — Msgr. Richard Huneger. “New” is not quite accurate.

Msgr. Huneger is familiar with St. Joseph, having attended the school for first through eighth grades 1952-’60 and being an altar server for the parish from fourth through eighth grades.

“Nothing but fond memories,” Msgr. Huneger says. “It always felt special, being near the Capitol, and therefore, faith as important as politics.”

Msgr. Huneger says he loved going to school, and he had a nearly perfect attendance – he missed only one day in his eight years at St. Joseph. His family was close to the school. His father worked at the Statesman Journal newspaper, just a block away, and his mother was school secretary 1962-’74. He has fond memories of being a student, including playing marbles on the gravel playground, meeting the kindly priests (Fathers Vincent Cunniff and Joe Beno), hearing from the Holy Names Sisters in class and on the playground and reciting the daily morning offering in school, which he still does to start his day.

“As far as I can tell, I got an excellent academic and religious formation in every respect,” he says.

Msgr. Huneger’s education continued at Mount Angel Seminary for high school and college. He then went on to the University of Innsbruck, Austria 1968-’72. He was ordained a priest in 1973.

Except for kindergarten in South Dakota, Catholic education has been a constant in his life. Since ordination, he has always lived in a parish with a Catholic school.

“I like to think that it’s just an integral part of parish life, optimally lived, without prejudice, of course, to parishes without Catholic schools,” he says.

Msgr. Huneger does wonder if he’s up to the task of pastoring one of Oregon’s busiest parishes and schools. But he has heard that “a lot of good, dedicated people keep things moving along well, and not to worry.”  

He is returning to his home parish just in time for the 2015 celebration of the school’s 150th anniversary.

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