Bishop celebrates 10 years as a shepherd

Bishop Carl A. Kemme looks over the sheet cakes and cupcakes baked in honor of his decade of service to the Diocese of Wichita. He celebrated a Mass Wednesday, May 1, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception attended by many priests of the diocese and Chancery employees. A reception was held afterward in Good Shepherd Hall. A priest of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, he was ordained a bishop on May 1, 2014. (Advance photo)

The Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme said 10 years ago he couldn’t have imagined the blessing he would receive being named bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.

He talked about his experiences at a noon Mass Wednesday, May 1, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

Speaking on the very spot in the sanctuary where he was ordained to the fullness of Holy Orders, Bishop Kemme said much has happened in his life and that he has grown in an understanding of who he is and of the church that has been entrusted to him.

10 busy years

“A lot has been packed into 10 busy, full, and, I’m very delighted to say, happy years,” he said to a nearly full church with many of the priests of the diocese seated on the east and west sides of the sanctuary.

The bishop said he could never have imagined all of the many people he would come to know at the Chancery, in all of the parishes and ministries, and all of the opportunities he would have to grow in prayer and faith to deepen his trust in God and his mission.

“I come today to give thanks for these wonderful 10 years and to ask for God’s forgiveness for my sins,” he said. “And to ask for forgiveness for my mistakes – there have been numerous mistakes made along the way. But I also want to ask the Lord to continue to give me the strength I need, the energy and good health that I can continue.”

Bishop Kemme said he plans to continue to serve the diocese for 12 years when he’ll be 75 years old and will be required to submit his resignation to the pope. “Until then I pray that I’ll continue to be your bishop and continue the path forward. I think there is much, much more to do and I hope to be a big part of that.”

He added that he couldn’t have been ordained on a better day than the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to whom was entrusted the holy family and who embodied the qualities needed for good shepherds. “We need to be faithful. We need to be loving. We need to be courageous,” he said. “And through his intercession, I beg for those virtues and graces for myself and I beg them for our priests.”

The bishop closed his homily by asking for the prayers of the faithful of the diocese.

A request for prayers

“I truly need them, perhaps now more than ever before,” he said. “And I thank you for your support and your commitment to our faith. When I came here 10 years ago I could not have imagined the blessing that would be mine in shepherding this diocese. I hope and pray that blessing continues for many years to come.”

At a reception after the Mass in Good Shepherd Hall, the Very Rev. David Lies, Bishop Kemme’s vicar general, told those attending that the Sisters of St. Joseph were praying for Bishop Kemme and that one of the sisters told him she couldn’t believe that Bishop Kemme has been her shepherd for 10 years. “So I told her, yes, it’s been 10 years but sometimes it probably feels longer for him.”

Fr. Lies told those sitting around the tables in the parish hall that he remembers the Thursday morning as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Derby when he learned of Bishop Kemme’s appointment to the diocese and how he searched the internet to learn what he could about his new shepherd.

Radiant and engaging

“Bishop the first impressions when we met, your affability, your genuineness, your radiant smile were very engaging. It was immediately disarming and reassuring that you brought that gift of personality with you and the experience you gained in 12 years of service to two bishops in Springfield, Illinois, as vicar general.”

Fr. Lies said Bishop Kemme’s example has inspired him to be a better presider at Mass, through his joy in conferring the sacrament of Confirmation, and how he interacts with his sheep.

“Your desire to move from maintenance to mission, this early on became Bishop Kemme’s inspiration and intuition. We pray that you have 12 more years with us and that you can look back and leave this flock in better condition than when you found it. That’s his one desire. And we pray that we can support you in that and that the Lord will continue to inspire you with those gifts and the courage to truly do that.”