Bishop: Fr. Hemberger serenely accepted death
Bishop Carl A. Kemme said he was saddened, like all who knew Father Hemberger, to learn a few months ago that the priest had stage-four pancreatic cancer.
“But, also like all of you, I was truly amazed and inspired to discover how accepting, serene, and at peace Father Kent was in the face of it all. From the beginning, he saw this as part of God’s plan for him, and with uncommon resolve, he embraced it with spiritual consolation and trust.”
With that in mind, Bishop Kemme invited those attending to offer the funeral Mass for the salvation of his soul and for the consolation of family and friends. “If Father Kent could speak to us now, he would certainly say do not be sad, but be glad, for his time of suffering and pain is completed and now he lives truly and fully alive in Christ.”
Bishop Kemme said during the many visits he had before Fr. Hemberger’s death, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Andover, continually talked about how he had been blessed.
“He would always say how blessed he was, blessed with a great family, blessed with the life and ministry of the priesthood, blessed to have done everything he wanted to do in life, blessed to serve in various parishes and places in the diocese, blessed to have the support of so many people, blessed to have received more than he ever gave, and yes, even blessed to know that the end was near in order to have the time and opportunity to say what he needed to say and do what he needed to do before meeting the Lord.”
Father Hemberger was a good example of how the faithful should approach life, the bishop said, “with a sense of being blessed.”
Referring to the day’s Gospel, Bishop Kemme said Jesus, in his Sermon of the Mount, identified those in the world who are truly blessed: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers and even the persecuted.
“These are blessed because their sole confidence and strength is in God and God alone,” Bishop Kemme said. “Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these.”
Father Hemberger lived those beatitudes in his last few months, the bishop said, because his illness “gave him a laser-sharp focus on how much God had done in his life and was now doing through his untimely death: blessing him with a sense of gratitude, hope and measureless love.”
That is why Father Hemberger called himself blessed and why he could communicate in person, in writing, or by video “that he was truly at peace, for the God of Peace was with him.”
As St. Paul states, Bishop Kemme said, “Nothing could separate him ‘from the love of Christ,’ not cancer, not fatigue, not pain or distress, not even death. For in all these things, he conquered overwhelmingly through Christ who loved him and now has called him to take his place at the banquet of eternal life.”
The bishop closed his homily by saying he spoke to Father Hemberger two days before the priest’s death to thank him for his service to the church. “He received this expression of gratitude with a smile.”
He then thanked all of those attending the service and all of Father Hemberger’s former parishioners for their kindness and goodness to him.
“How blessed he was to know, love, and serve all of you as a priest of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that he is now asking God to bless us with the same sense of blessing he experienced in this life, hoping and praying that in all things, we too will know God’s peace and joy.”