At vigil service, Archbishop Brunett remembered for ‘strong determination of spirit’

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
A crucifix and a book of Gospels are placed on the draped casket of Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett during his vigil service at St. James Cathedral in Seattle February 11.  Photo: Stephen Brashear A crucifix and a book of Gospels are placed on the draped casket of Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett during his vigil service at St. James Cathedral in Seattle February 11. Photo: Stephen Brashear

SEATTLE – John Tien Luu came to St. James Cathedral to pay his respects during the February 11 vigil service for the late Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett.

“He was the bishop who elevated our Vietnamese community to a parish and that was an honor,” said Luu, a member of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Tukwila and a resident of Federal Way.

Archbishop Brunett, who suffered a stroke in 2013 that severely limited his mobility but didn’t dampen his spirit, died January 31 in Seattle. He served as leader of the Archdiocese of Seattle from 1997 to 2010.

Archbishop Brunett had “a strong determination of spirit as he approached life in his priesthood,” Spokane Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad said in his homily during the vigil.

“Whenever I visited him [after his stroke], there was a certain kind of spunk in his attitude in his approach to life,” Bishop Skylstad added.

Seattle Archbishop Emeritus J. Peter Sartain presided over the vigil, which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes as “a time to remember the life of the deceased and to commend him/her to God. In prayer we ask God to console us in our grief and give us strength to support one another.”

Archbishop Brunett’s casket was brought into the cathedral, where Archbishop Sartain sprinkled it with holy water in front of the baptismal font. A pall was unfolded and placed over the casket. Pallbearers and members of Archbishop Brunett’s family, carrying a crucifix and book of Gospels, accompanied the casket until it was placed over the cathedral crypt, where two Seattle archbishops have been laid to rest.

Archbishop Brunett “appreciated very much the divine, but he was also very aware of the human, the frail and the brokenness,” Bishop Skylstad said in his homily. The late archbishop loved priestly ministry and pastoral work; his dedication to the Eucharist, especially in his later years, was one of the things that drove him, Bishop Skylstad added.

Close friends serving as pallbearers included Ray Aspiri, a parishioner at Christ Our Hope Parish in downtown Seattle, which Archbishop Brunett established in 2010.

“He was a brilliant man. He was decisive and he had vision and he made things happen,” Aspiri said, adding that he worked Archbishop Brunett to establish the Crozier Society, which supports seminarians, and the Fulcrum Foundation, which supports Catholic education in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Brunett attended Fulcrum’s Celebration of Light gala a week before he died, said close friend John Hempelmann, another Christ Our Hope parishioner. The archbishop was ministering to fellow residents at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle, “up until the week before he died,” added Hempelmann, who also served as a pallbearer.

Pallbearer Steve Banchero and his wife, Linda, had a close friendship with Archbishop Brunett — he celebrated the weddings of their three children and baptized six of their grandchildren, Linda Banchero said.

“He’s been a very dear friend,” said Banchero, a parishioner at St. Monica Parish on Mercer Island. “We were very blessed to know him.”

“He brought a lot of leadership to the archdiocese,” Steve Banchero added.

Hempelmann said he visited Archbishop Brunett two nights before he died.

“I’ve never seen him so peaceful and serene,” Hempelmann said.

The funeral for Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett was February 12 at St. James Cathedral. Read full coverage on NWCatholic.org and in the March issue of Northwest Catholic magazine. Read Archbishop Brunett’s obituary.