Duane G. Hunt was born in the heartland of American Protestantism in 1884, and was reared as a Methodist. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, in 1907 and taught in Iowa public schools before entering the University of Iowa Law School in 1911.
Deteriorating vision caused his resignation from law school in 1912 and plagued him throughout his life. Even more disturbing, however, was his persistent religious doubt, which finally forced him to abandon the faith of his family. Only after conquering his original resistance to Catholicism with studied logic did he embrace the Church of Rome, requesting to be baptized.
He was baptized in Chicago in 1913 and then accepted an offer to teach for a year in the Speech Department of the University of Utah. He liked Utah and extended his term of teaching, but a growing desire to become a priest caused him to resign in 1916 to enter St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He was ordained on 27 June 1920 in the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Lifelong interests in athletics and music served to complement his priesthood. Despite his poor eyesight, Father Hunt ranked among the best tennis players in Utah and coached the first diocesan baseball league in 1928. A skilled musician, he directed the cathedral choir for fourteen years.
After eight months of missionary work in Vernal, Father Hunt settled in at the Cathedral of the Madeleine as rector in 1925, then later as chancellor and vicar general. He was named Monsignor in 1929. In resonant baritone voice he broadcast the weekly "Catholic Hour" over radio station KSL from 1927 to 1949. He edited the Intermountain Catholic from 1926 to 1934, and published his treatise The People, the Clergy and the Church in 1928.
Bishop Hunt became the first Methodist convert to be named a member of the American Catholic hierarchy when he was consecrated fifth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City on 28 October 1937. During his tenure he founded fifteen parishes throughout the state. Cathedral Parish School, which is now the diocesan pastoral center, was built in Salt Lake City and St. Benedict's Hospital in Ogden. Bishop Hunt invited the Carmelite Sisters to come to Utah, and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word to open St. Joseph's Villa in Salt Lake City. He encouraged the Trappist monks to establish their monastery in Huntsville, Utah. People of all faiths throughout the United States mourned Bishop Hunt when he died of a heart ailment on 30 March 1960.
See: Duane G. Hunt, "My Conversion to the Catholic Faith," Epistle, St. Paul Guild (1949); Bernice M. Mooney, Salt of the Earth, The History of the Catholic Church in Utah, 1776-1987 (1992).
Bernice M. Mooney