getting to know … Father Hugh Guentner
Father Hugh Guentner feels energetic and upbeat most of the time ” not an easy thing to pull off when his job is his life. Guentner is a pastor who, like all Catholic pastors, has committed himself to serving God and the church. The Chicago south-side native grew up with religion. His parents sent him to Catholic schools, where he embraced his faith.
He’s taken a different path in life than his siblings, both of whom got married and had children. Guentner might not be married, but he works with couples preparing for marriage and says he finds a lot of inspiration from them, as well as from all of the people he meets in his everyday life.
There are some days, I think we all get up and we think ‘Oh no, another day,’ and sometimes it’s that way with me too. I’m normal like anybody else.
Once we get into the day and we’re challenged by what confronts us, we get a whole different feeling of existence and feeling of purpose. … This is my purpose. I’m reminded by that, through the interaction of what I’m supposed to do as a priest. That gives me a purpose of being.
I really enjoy working with couples because they give me insights into my own life. And it’s not something that I’m trying to dictate to them. It’s like we’re on a journey of Christian life. … They enrich me and I hope I can enrich them.
I enjoy my life of not being married, the celibate life. There are times that, you know when you’re feeling certain ways, which is normal in our lives. You say, ‘I wonder how it would have been to be married or to have someone special in my life; to have children, to have grandchildren,’ because it’s a beautiful reality of life. We all come from hopeful families that have been very positive for us. Many people come from family backgrounds that aren’t the greatest. … I’m always impressed because I see from my interaction with them how they’re able to cope. … That enriches me, because I see the reality of human nature at work and how people really do strive to make their lives better.
Normally for me, too, I find that it helps me to deepen my own commitment to the church and to my way of life as a priest. Just being around people and seeing their own faiths … that feeds back to me. … I really find that to be helpful in my own commitment.
I was going to say loneliness, but it’s not that way for me. I get tired because people, they energize me and yet it’s draining. When you try to be present to people, it gets draining. It’s energizing and yet it reactivates me. … I need to have time away, like on Sunday after masses, I need to go to a different place ” not an escape, but just a different place for me. Many times it’s just sitting in my apartment. It could be listening to PBS, or reading or making some phone calls. Generally on Mondays, I try to do things for myself. I might go down to Denver and visit with my religious community. I go swimming down there; go for walks around Sloan Lake. I visit people or maybe I go to a movie.
I don’t think it’s ever happened to me, but I’m very conscious at weddings, baptisms and funerals, of remembering the name. That is so important. I have it written down right in front of me so I don’t slip. Sometimes it’s so easy to get sidetracked. I’ve never been corrected, so that’s good.
It’s not as church-attended. I think people have spirituality. They have a faith in God and however it is they understand God. As far as institutional church, it’s not as stringently attended because there are so many different distractions that people have here. … On the other hand, I’m always impressed here in our church in Minturn at how many families come on Sunday and they make it a priority to be here. And I hear that from the other congregations too, that they find that true also. It is a fact that our state is generally considered unchurched. … That’s not saying they’re not religious.
People can see priests and religious as people. We have our difficulties; we have our good points, hopefully more stressed on the good than the negative. … I think the misconceptions are generally that we’re lonely and that we’re strange because we’re not married, and I can say, I see a lot of people who are married that I consider to be strange too. … Being single doesn’t mean we’re going to be lonely. I know a lot of married people that are lonely. … People wonder what we do all day? Priests who are really involved with their people, they’re going to be out there with them.
Loneliness can be a part of anyone’s life. If you really get into life, I don’t know how you can say you’re lonely, because there’s so much there.
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