Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber relaxes next to a river while praying. (Courtesy photo)

Father Drew Hoffman, a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, said in a homily the day after Bishop Gerber’s passing, that many people in the diocese have personal stories about Bishop Gerber.
“One of the great blessings of my young life was as an early college student before I joined the seminary, I was able to spend a day doing yard work for Bishop Gerber along with one of my friends,” he said.
Father Hoffman added that one of his favorite stories told by Bishop Gerber was when he visited Pope John Paul I, who died in 1978 after only 33 days as pope.
“When Bishop Gerber went in to meet Pope John Paul I, he introduced himself. ‘My name is Bishop Gerber. I’m the bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City.” Pope John Paul’s eyes got wide and he started to smile and he said, ‘Dodge City, like in Gunsmoke?’” Father Hoffman said.
“Bishop Gerber loved doing things like that: to tell stories, to be with people. So many of us were individually impacted by him.”
Father Hoffman talked about how the adoption of stewardship under Bishop Gerber impacted him personally because he was able to more easily receive a Catholic education through high school.
“After high school, I became a seminarian for the Diocese of Wichita in large part because I saw other young men in the seminary – strong and good men who looked like me, who I thought I could be like, that were normal, and were striving for holiness.
“Bishop Gerber helped to develop a spirit and a culture of vocations in this diocese that drew me to it. My life was changed and my vocation was fortified during my two summers as a seminarian working at The Lord’s Diner.”
Father Hoffman continued by telling the story about Bishop Gerber’s inspiration and vision for the diocesan food ministry.
“From time to time, even in the last couple of years, you’d see Bishop Gerber walk into the Diner – not through the back door, not to check on things – but to go through the line with the homeless, pick up his meal, and go sit in full bishop’s regalia with the people who he was feeding through his great generosity, to talk and to share and to listen.”
He said many, if not the majority of young men and women in the diocese, have had their lives changed by Bishop Gerber’s generosity and self-gift.
“One of the things that is so striking about the life of Bishop Gerber and so helpful for all of us is how normal in many ways it was. Bishop Gerber was simply a man from the Diocese of Wichita who did what he was supposed to do; who went to Mass every Sunday, who prayed every day, who followed the laws and the teachings of the church, and because of that, he did extraordinary things.”
When Bishop Gerber saw Father John Sherlock, former rector of the Cathedral, at Father Sean O’Shea’s funeral last November, Fr. Hoffman said the bishop gave Father Sherlock a big hug and thanked him for taking such good care of Father O’Shea in his last weeks and days.
“It was a tremendously humanizing and simple and normal moment for such a tremendous man, and yet that was his whole life. To do what we are supposed to do in the spiritual life, to be at Mass every Sunday, to pray every day, to follow the laws and the teachings and to give of ourselves – friends, Bishop Gerber epitomizes what that can do.”
It’s not likely we will found a Spiritual Life Center or a Catholic Care Center, Fr. Hoffman said, “but no doubt if our lives follow that same pattern, lives can be changed in the way that Bishop Gerber did.”