Rev. Howard A. Kuhns, C.S.C.

Rev. Howard A. Kuhns, C.S.C.
Mar. 11, 1918 – Sept. 13, 2018

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rev. Howard August Kuhns, C.S.C., 100, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind., on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

Watch Fr. Kuhns Memorial Mass on YouTube

Fr. Kuhns was born on March 11, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, to Norman J. and Wilda Leslie Kuhns. He was a 1936 graduate of St. John High School. He was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on Aug. 15, 1937, and made his First Profession of Vows on Feb. 2, 1939. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and made his Final Profession on Aug. 16, 1942. Fr. Kuhns studied theology at Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C., from 1942 to 1946. He was ordained on June 24, 1946, at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. Fr. Kuhns received his Master’s in history from the University of Notre Dame in 1948. He attended the University of Minnesota from 1948 to 1951 and then was assigned to teach liturgy and Church history at Holy Cross College in 1951. He earned a doctorate in history from Georgetown University in June 1959.

Fr. Kuhns returned to Notre Dame in 1962, teaching history and prefecting in the residence halls. From 1969 until 1974, he was chaplain for the Holy Cross Brothers at James Hall until he was assigned as assistant pastor at St. Casimir’s Parish in South Bend, Ind. In 1978, he was made pastor and remained there until the autumn of 1987, when he moved to Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix, where he kept busy assisting at local parishes on the weekends and serving as the house archivist. He was named administrator of St. Michael’s Parish in Gila Bend, Ariz., where he ministered to a mostly Hispanic and Native American congregation from 1996 to 2001. He remained at Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix until 2011, when he moved to Holy Cross House in Notre Dame, Ind.

Preceding him in death are his parents, Norman and Wilda Kuhns.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, September 17, 2018 at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, Ind., where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at


Wake Eulogyby Rev. Charlie Kohlerman, C.S.C.
Sept. 17, 2018

We would like to welcome all of you to our Wake Service for our brother, Rev. Howard “Gus” Kuhns. We gather to celebrate his life as a religious and priest of the Church and the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Preceding him in death are his parents, Norman and Wilda Kuhns; brothers, Charles, Raymond and Joseph Kuhns; sisters, Mary Ellen George and Audrey (Clarence) Williams; as well as a great niece and great nephew. He is survived by his brother, Richard (Mary) Kuhns; brother-in-law, Clarence Williams as well as nieces, nephews and their children. Patricia (James) Baylor, Judith (Larry) Gatts, Michelle Kourouniotis, and Peggy (Chris) Buck; nephew, John (Kathie) Williams, as well as many younger great nieces and nephews.

Fr. Kuhns was born on March 11, 1918, in Canton, Ohio, to Norman J. and Wilda Leslie Kuhns. He attended St. Peter’s Parish grade School in Canton. Fr Gus’s dad was the janitor at St Peter’s and Fr Gus, his mom and dad, and his six siblings lived above the school building. This was a blessing as it was the only way that Fr Gus could attend St Peter’s. He then attended St. John’s High School where he graduated in 1936. After a year at Holy Cross Seminary (our former High School Seminary/Old College here at Notre Dame) as a freshman at Notre Dame, he went to St. Joseph’s Novitiate, Rolling Prairie, Ind., and made First Vows there on Aug. 16, 1938. He then returned to Notre Dame and completed his undergraduate education at Moreau Seminary and graduated from the University in 1942

He then went to Washington DC to begin studies in Theology at Holy Cross College. He was ordained a priest June 24, 1946, at Notre Dame. After Ordination, Fr. Kuhns worked in residence halls and studied history at Notre Dame, where he earned a master’s degree in 1948.

After further studies at the University of Minnesota in 1951, he was assigned to teach Liturgy and Church History at Holy Cross College in Washington. During this time he continued advance studies at Georgetown University, where he received a doctorate in 1959.

I went to Holy Cross College in 1958 to begin my studies in theology. It was at that time that I first met Fr Kuhns. I joined his Church History class and as mentioned above, this was at the time that he was doing his doctoral studies at Georgetown University. He had a difficult time sorting out his research for the doctorate and the syllabus for our Church History Class. He would come into class with a set of 3 by 5 cards in his pocket, take them out and begin discussing their content. The only problem was that often the cards were notes from his doctoral research and not from his Church History class.

In 1962, he returned to Notre Dame where he taught history while prefecting in residence halls and serving in several administrative posts. Fr Bob Villegas who now lives at Fatima House with me recalls working with Fr Kuhns in Breen-Phillips hall on campus. He reports that they made a good team.

From 1969 to 1974, Fr. Kuhns was Chaplain for the Holy Cross brothers at James Hall, Holy Cross Brothers Center at Notre Dame.

In 1974, he was assigned as Assistant Pastor at St. Casimir’s Parish in South Bend, Ind. In 1978, he was made Pastor and remained there until September 1987 when he moved to Casa Santa Cruz, Phoenix.

In reflecting on his time at St Casimir’s he said he enjoyed his time spent in South Bend at St. Casimir parish but he ran into a bit of a problem. He recalled that when he first got to St Casmir’s, the parishioners didn’t want him. He wasn’t Polish. St. Casimir was the preeminent Polish Parish in South Bend at that time. However, by the time he left 20+ years later, they didn’t want to see him leave. He had won their hearts.

Fr Gus talked about riding his bike around town here at Notre Dame which was his favorite mode of transportation in those days and was one of his secrets that kept him in good health and longevity.

In 1987 he moved to Casa Santa Cruz, Phoenix and assisted at St. Luke’s Parish almost continuously except for a time when he served as Co-Administrator with Fr Louis Rink, C.S.C of St. Michael’s Parish in Gila Bend, AZ where he ministered to a mostly Hispanic and Native American congregation from 1996 to 2001. He remained at Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix until 2011.

Following Fr Kuhns’ journey one sees a pattern that was not unusual during the early and middle years of the last century. The church was expanding and building schools and the need for religious and priests was great. Fr Gus, as many other priests and religious, were needed in the parishes and schools but this could mean that their pursuit of advanced academic degrees was often put on hold as they were assigned to active ministry. Looking at the years between his degrees we see that 11 years lapsed between his master’s degree and his doctorate. Dedicating continuous time to degree studies was not readily available to most at this time in the history of Holy Cross or in the church in general.

It was during his time in Phoenix that I encountered him once again.

In 2003 I was appointed the superior of Holy Cross House and we had annual Superiors’ meetings in Scottsdale AZ, just a short distance from our house, Casa Santa Cruz in Phoenix. It was our custom to visit the Casa during our stay at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Scottsdale. At the time, some of our men were a bit older and used assistive devices such as canes. But every time I visited there was never any sign of canes etc. and Fr Gus always informed me that all were doing fine and none needed to go to Holy Cross House. I always assured him that I was not recruiting for Holy Cross House only making a friendly visit.

Fr Gus moved to Holy Cross House in 2011. Again Fr Gus and I were together.

During his time at Holy Cross House he liked to go out to his favorite store (the Walgreens across from Christ the King Parish). He would reminisce remembering the parish when it was just a tiny church and he marveled in how much it had grown over the years with a wonderful school and parish church.

It was at this time that his secret for living 100+ years was revealed. When he visited his favorite store, the Walgreens across from Christ the King, about once every 1-2 months, he would purchase 3-4 family size bags of M & M’s to eat along with about 4 family size bags of Hershey kisses. Chocolate turned out to be the dietary key to his quality nutrition that carried him to his century of living.

Fr. Kuhns could be described as one who was always in charge or tried to be. He had a wonderful deceptive sense of humor, sometimes taken for cynicism but as one got to know him his almost impish smile betrayed his good nature. When he very recently had to move to a medical room from his assisted living room at Holy Cross House, as his condition began to deteriorate, he protested but acquiesced. After all, that move would be an indication that he was getting old at the young age of 100+. After the move, on several occasions, the staff would be looking for him in his new room but he was nowhere to be found. Checking his old room they would find him sitting there in silence. When reminded that he had a new room he would just smile shuffle off to his new room. He was still in charge.

Fr Gus Kuhns was a wonderful example of a religious and priest who, true to his vows, was available to work for the Church and the Congregation in whatever capacity he was needed at the time. His early times in priesthood were spent in studies intermingled with teaching. As time went on it became apparent that his strengths were not in the classroom but as a pastor tending the flock in parishes. (When he was at Holy Cross House, I would say to him within the hearing of some of the staff, “you taught me at Holy Cross College” and he would reply “I bet I was your worst teacher”). That was one of the things that we agreed on.

His strengths were as a pastor and he cherished his time at St Casimir in South Bend serving his Polish congregation and in his different assignments in the Phoenix area especially in his ministry to the Hispanic and Native American congregations.

We are grateful to Fr “Gus” for all he did for so many. We have become closer to our God through our journey with Fr Gus. For as our reading this evening reminded us: “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord: so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

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