Convert writes book about Fr. John Reinkemeyer

Marcel Normand, the author of the book about Fr. Reinkemeyer, is a retired social science instructor from Fort Scott Community College. “Writing his story has been a true joy,” he said.

By Nikki Patrick, The Morning Sun
PITTSBURG — Fr. John Reinkemeyer never intended to become a priest. But he was ordained on May 24, 1951, at his home parish, Rich Fountain, Mo., and is celebrating Holy Mass daily as associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church near Garden Plain.
Retired educator Marcel Normand, Arma, tells the priest’s story in his new book, “Father John Reinkemeyer: God’s Humble Servant.”
“Fr. John wanted to be a farmer, and he had a girlfriend that he wanted to marry,” Normand said. “But God had other plans.”
He credits the priest with bringing him and his family into the Roman Catholic Church.
“My father came over from France in 1913,” Normand said. “My family was Catholic, but the Catholic Church was kind of oppressive in Europe, and my father never pushed us to attend church. My folks believed in God, but didn’t think you had to go to church.”
Someone who did try to get him more active in the Catholic Church was childhood friend, Joseph Gorentz, who later became a priest.
“We had known each other since we were 4, went through kindergarten to high school together, and then all four years of college at Pittsburg State University,” Normand said.
His friend’s urgings finally persuaded Normand to start taking instruction from Fr. Colin Boor. Then he met his future wife, whose family attended a Protestant church.
“My brother, Richard, was going out with her first cousin, Nancy, so we went out on a blind date,” Normand said. “I met Helen and took to her immediately. I didn’t push the Catholic thing because I wanted to get married.”
But Gorentz didn’t give up.
“By this time, Fr. Boor had left, and Joe said that I should meet Fr. John Reinkemeyer, who had succeeded him at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Arma,” Normand said.
Normand and his wife were attending a church in Fort Scott at the time.
“We were even teaching Sunday school, but we knew that we were not being pulled,” he said. “I decided that I would meet Fr. John. I told Joe, and he arranged it. I immediately felt pulled when I met him — he spoke with authority.”
Normand, his brother and their wives began weekly instruction sessions with Reinkemeyer.
“We’d meet at 7 p.m. every Friday at Richard and Nancy’s house,” he said. “We started in September of 1964 and ended in December, right before Christmas. The four of us, along with Richard and Nancy’s two little girls, were all baptized at 6:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1964.”
This was done in the newly completed St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
“When it came time for communion that evening, Fr. John had us receive communion first, since we were the newest converts,” Normand said. “The four of us were the first to take communion in the new church.”
He added that Reinkemeyer, who was strong physically as well as spiritually, had taken an active part in constructing the church.
“Except for the steel girders, Fr. John and about a dozen hard-working parishioners built that church,” Normand said.
Reinkemeyer left the Arma church in 1966, later serving in Wichita, Kingman, and other parishes in the Diocese of Wichita. However, the Normands continue to correspond with him. Several times a month the priest sends them his weekly church bulletins, with personal notes written on them.
Normand said that the priest never wastes anything, recycling used envelopes and Christmas cards.
“He was ‘going green’ long before saving the environment was trendy,” he said.
“He collected newspapers and aluminum cans, and would get about $100 a month that he sent to missions. Fr. John took truckloads of food, clothing and blankets to Mexico and the U.S. Southwest for the poor.”
For many years Reinkemeyer also had 35 or 40 hives of bees, and called bees “the finest little bugs that God makes.” He sold their honey for money to aid the church.
“He’s also very strong about abortion,” Normand said. “For about 25 years, he went to the Tiller clinic in Wichita at 7 a.m. on the first Tuesday of each month to pray. This was long before Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.”
The book includes many testimonials about Reinkemeyer, including one by Bishop Michael O. Jackels of the Wichita Diocese.
“It was never about him, but rather all centered on God, the church, and the salvation and sanctification of the people he was called to serve,” the bishop wrote.
“Writing this book has taken three years, but writing his story has been a joy,” Normand said, “for Fr. John has affected my life greatly in many areas.”
Normand taught at Liberal, Mo., High School, Fort Scott High School, Fort Scott Community College and St. Mary’s Colgan High School. He has continued to teach part-time since his retirement, along with working at the Bedene Funeral Home, Arma.
He and his wife, a retired elementary teacher, have three married children. They are Tim and Lisa Normand and Tyler and Caryn Normand, who live in the Pittsburg area, and Teresa Normand Lobb and husband Chris, Lenexa. They cherish their many grandchildren.
“We plan on having the book available at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Pittsburg and at several other local churches,” he said.
Normand and his wife have contacted several of Fr. Reinkemeyer’s former parishes to make presentations about the book. Several are already scheduled.
Patrick writes for the Pittsburg Morning Sun.

Want to buy the book?
Those interested in purchasing the book may call the Normands at (620) 347-8563 or write them at Box 617, Arma, Kan., 66712. The book sells for $12, plus 88 cents in state taxes. Shipping costs are $4.