Bishop Carl A. Kemme begins the prayers for the Final Commendation at Monsignor Robert E. Hemberger’s funeral Friday, Nov. 16, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Advance photos)

Father Kent Hemberger thanked everyone attending his brother’s funeral for the “ways you blessed his life over the years” and summed up Msgr. Robert Hemberger’s life in two words: “servant leader.”
His service was never about himself, Father Kent said at the Mass Friday, Nov. 16, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
“He never sought the spotlight. He tried to turn down the title monsignor. He never tried to autocratically impose his will. Instead, he felt his job was to make the bishops he served look good. His job was to help the people that worked with him successful in their ministries. That’s what servant leadership is about.”
Msgr. Hemberger died Thursday, Nov. 8, in Florida. He was a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for 48 years.
Father Kent, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Andover, recalled that his brother quoted Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk in the homily Monsignor Hemberger delivered at Father Kent’s first Mass: “The challenge of the priest is to be a good shepherd without making the people feel like sheep.”
“He (Msgr. Hemberger) lived this quote throughout his priesthood,” Father Kent said. “He was a good shepherd to the priests, to the religious sisters, and to all the people he encountered and worked with. He did so with humor, insight, and always praising the gifts of others.”
No effort reflected the gifts of Msgr. Hemberger better than The Lord’s Diner, one of Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber’s legacies.
“Once I told Bob how I heard Bishop Gerber say that starting The Lord’s Diner was the easiest thing he ever did,” Father Kent said, adding that the bishop was referring to how people willingly came forward with support and worked together to make it happen.
“My brother, Bob smiled and said, ‘I hope he appreciates how much work it took to make sure all the right people were around the table, with the right agenda so that when he walked in the meeting, it would be a success,” Father Kent said. “Bob’s gift was turning the different bishops’ visions into reality. He had the gift of pulling together the right team of people, creating the right process, and empowering them to serve God’s people. He was the servant leader.”
One of the reasons Msgr. Hemberger wanted his funeral at the Cathedral was because of how much involvement he had in its renovation, Fr. Kent said.
“He gave five years of his life to the design, fundraising, and oversight of its renovation,” Fr. Kent said. “He literally went to hundreds of meetings on top of his many other duties. For him, it really was shepherding the renovation. He didn’t try to impose his ideas, but inspired architects, artists, planners, builders, and so many others to use their creativity and talents to make it happen.”
Msgr. Hemberger was the shepherd, his brother said, who inspired people to do their best without making them feel like sheep.
He was also known as someone who was energized by meetings, which often filled his week.
A Catholic Charities board member told Father Kent that his brother “exuded tranquility” at meetings and brought peace and dignity to them.
“He also taught me that it’s essential to listen,” the board member said. “He was an attentive, quiet, wholehearted listener.”
Father Kent said it would be hard to determine how many cases he judged in his 30 years working in the diocesan marriage tribunal.
“He always talked about his tribunal work as helping people. He wanted people to find healing from the pain of a failed marriage so they could move forward in their life and remain within the church,” Father Kent said. “He even judged marriage cases when he was diocesan administrator. After sitting in meetings all day, he’d go home, judge a marriage case, and then he’d be answering emails until 11 or 12 o’clock at night.”
Msgr. Hemberger served regularly at The Lord’s Diner and celebrated Mass at the Sedgwick County Jail.
“My brother saw God’s grace and goodness in people and in our world. He lived with optimism and hope. For him the cup was always half full.”
Msgr. Hemberger was buried at Ascension Cemetery in Wichita.

Father Kent Hemberger, Monsignor’s brother, prays part of the Eucharistic prayer during his brother’s funeral. Father Kent also deliver the homily.