Bishop Kemme’s Ad Limina Apostolorum visit

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As you may already know, I recently returned from my first visit “ad limina Apostolorum,”meaning “to the threshold of the Apostles,” an official visit to the Holy See in Rome, that bishops are required to make about every five years.  I joined the bishops of Region IX, comprising the states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska in making this official visit.  I’d like to share some of the highlights of this visit with you.

These official visits are meant to strengthen the bonds we bishops have with the Holy Father, to whom we have pledged our loyalty and support, as successors of the Apostles.  First, it was a spiritual visit, wherein we celebrated mass at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as at the Churches of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.  These principal basilicas are near to the heart of the Church and celebrating mass in them was a moving experience.  We venerated the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, and at the tomb of Peter, we renewed our faith by singing the Nicene Creed in Latin.  That was a very powerful moment for me, realizing that Peter had given his life for the faith. I was reminded that I am called to do the same.

Pope Francis poses for a photo with U.S. bishops from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska during their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican Jan. 16, 2020.

Later that morning, the crown of our visit was the meeting with Pope Francis, who spent well over two hours with us in dialogue and conversation.  He made us feel so very welcome and at ease.  We could bring up any topic as he encouraged us to speak as brother bishops.  It was a remarkable moment in my episcopal ministry.  All of the bishops asked questions ranging from topics such as unity in the Church, the relationship of a bishop to his priests and people, immigration, abortion, the current crisis of faith caused by the sexual abuse of priests and bishops, the McCarrick situation, the importance of prayer and rest for the bishop and a variety of other important matters.  All in all, our discussion was encouraging and inspirational.  Pope Francis exuded a joyful demeanor and assured us of his fatherly closeness to us in the United States.  I shall never forget this time with the Holy Father.

In addition to this meeting, we also met with various congregations of the Holy See.  Among them for me were meetings with the Congregations for Catholic Education, Bishops, Clergy, Secretary of State, Worship, Evangelization and Causes of Saints.  These meetings were open dialogues about the state of the Church in each of our dioceses.  I was encouraged to learn that several of the officials of these congregations had read our reports which we submitted last July.  Cardinal Quellet in the Congregation for Bishops asked me personally about the many fruits we experience because of stewardship, particularly our mass attendance numbers, the large numbers of vocations to the priesthood,  the St. Joseph House of Formation, the cause for sainthood of Father Kapaun, adoration chapels, and the new pastoral plan, “Fully Alive as Missionary Disciples, with its emphasis on becoming an evangelizing diocese, the renewal of the Stewardship Way of Life and renewal of parish and family life by reclaiming Sunday as the Day of the Lord.  I was honored to briefly speak on these blessings.

I was especially excited to learn that on March 10, 2020, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will officially vote on the heroic virtue of Father Emil Kapaun.  If the vote is affirmative, his cause will be forwarded to the Holy Father to recommend that he be declared “venerable.”   If this happens, the Congregation will then begin the thorough study of the submitted miracle attributed to Father Kapaun’s intercession.  All in all, it looks very promising, but of course without any guarantees.  Let’s all pray in a special way on March 10 for his cause to advance.

Friends, my time in Rome, which is always a pleasure, was even more so because of the exciting and encouraging meetings my brother bishops and I had, our closeness to the Successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis, our prayers together at the tombs of the first apostles and our fraternity as brother bishops.  I feel renewed in my episcopal ministry, a ministry I so unworthily share, but a ministry I am proud and honored to offer to you, the people of our diocese.  Please know how grateful I am to God to have made my home with you and to be with you as a brother in Christ and for you as an apostolic witness in our times.

God bless you and God bless the Diocese of Wichita,

Bishop Carl A. Kemme