Bishop honors seniors at annual celebration

Jazz in the Heartland entertained those attending a Harvest House 33rd Anniversary Celebration luncheon Thursday, May 12, in Good Shepherd Hall at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. At left, Jo Forcum, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, stands in front of a quilt being raffled as a Ukrainian refugee fundraiser. A Mass was celebrated by Bishop Carl A. Kemme. (Advance photos)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme, who is nearly 62-years-old, told those attending the Senior Appreciation Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Thursday, May 13, that he is sensitive to the word retirement because his two slightly older brothers are regaling him about their travels, now that they’re retired.

“I’ll retire in 13 years, three months, and 14 days,” he said as the 250 seniors attending the annual Harvest House celebration joined him in laughter. “I’m happy at what I do and I hope to do it for many, many, many more years.”

Bishop Kemme said in his homily that it is a great blessing for him to lead the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita.

“We’re on a pilgrimage, some at the very beginning, some are in the middle like me, and some are toward the end, like you,” he said. “And we’re all on this journey together. It’s a joy to be together and celebrating.”

Bishop talks about Pope’s reflection

The bishop talked about Pope Francis’ reflection in honor of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly that will be celebrated throughout the world on July 24. He encouraged the faithful to download the document from and to read it.

“I know you’ll be blessed by reading our Holy Father’s reflection, who is 85 years of age and is still leading and guiding the universal church,” he said. “I’m going to be – hopefully – retired at 76 and he’s still working so hard at 85 so I don’t have anything at all to concern myself about or to be complaining about.”

Bishop Kemme said the pope is writing about his life in his third stage of living with what many elderly experience: the diminishment of health and the aches and pains of life.

“He writes these beautiful words for grandparents and for the elderly, for the retired, reminding you that you have much to give and that the world the culture, and the church,” the bishop said. “We owe you the opportunity to share your wisdom, to receive your guidance and your direction for our families, for your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

The elderly have a pride of place and deserve respect, he said.

“Pope Francis says that so many today are afraid of old age and that is often seen as a disease to be avoided at all costs. And that because of our throwaway culture, we often tend to relegate seniors and hide them in rest homes and other places so as not to see them in their infirmity, or to care for them in their need, in a way that the elderly deserve.”

Honor the elderly

Our culture glorifies youth instead of the elderly, Bishop Kemme said, adding that the scriptures speak much differently. “They call the elderly who live a long life a blessing and a sign of the goodness of God. I hope you see your life as a blessing from God living the many years that you have lived and as a sign of God’s goodness to you and to us who love you.”

Pope Francis says old age is not a time to give up, the bishop said.

“He calls the elderly to embrace a new mission to give guidance and wisdom to the younger generations by contributing to what he has called and often refers to as a revolution of tenderness. I love that expression,” he said.

“The pope talks a lot about tenderness and closeness. And you in your elderly years, in your wisdom, you can help in that revolution of changing a culture that often is steeped in harshness and coldness into a revolution of tenderness, dealing with others in a gentle way, in a tender way, especially members of your own families.”
Bishop Kemme then talked about the tenderness he experienced from his grandparents, three of whom lived long lives.

“Grandparents and all the elderly have something that is extraordinarily valuable, that is, time,” he said. “Time to help us who work and toil…and time to be about the ministry of prayer.”

Adoration chapels are a blessing

The bishop shared about how much of a blessing it is for him to see the faithful praying in all of the adoration chapels of the diocese.

“The pope calls you to offer a trustful prayer. Trusting that God has led you to this point in life. God is here – he has not abandoned the world, even though we live in a dark and an ominous time. God is still in control,” Bishop Kemme said. “That kind of prayer born out of that trust and that wisdom is something that the world desperately needs today.”

He said his grandparents were people of prayer.

“That kind of trustful prayer is a great gift,” he said. “A treasure for the church today. I invite you to be a part of what the pope calls this great, enduring chorus of a great spiritual sanctuary where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain us in the community and all of us that toil and struggle in the field of life.”

Bishop Kemme thanked God for all of those attending the celebration and for what they have done to build up the church. He said their prayers for the priests and religious are an extraordinary gift.

“You have lived a blessed life and in turn are a blessing more than you can ever know,” he said. “In your elderly years you still bear great fruit.”