Bishops, priests, and seminarians filled the sanctuary at the funeral of Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. The Book of the Gospels is on top of his wooden coffin. (Advance photos)

The Diocese of Wichita bade farewell to its beloved shepherd, Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber, at his funeral Mass Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
Eleven bishops from across the Midwest and nearly all of the priests of the Diocese of Wichita concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Carl A. Kemme who was assisted by all of the seminarians of the diocese.
Bishop Kemme talked in his homily about Bishop Gerber’s understanding that he likened himself to a fruit-bearing branch grafted to the vine of Christ and pruned over time to be evermore fruitful.
“These fruits are the many realities in our diocese that owe their existence in large measure to Bishop Gerber’s pastoral vision and deeply caring heart, Bishop Kemme said. “We know these realities well and it is hard for us to imagine diocesan life without them, but we dare not ever take them for granted.”
He first mentioned stewardship as a way of life. “Bishop Gerber once wrote that he didn’t find stewardship; it found him and changed his entire vision and way of living.”
Bishop Kemme said Bishop Gerber’s “baby,” of course, was The Lord’s Diner. “I will long remember the pride with which he spoke of his vision for The Lord’s Diner to the many family and guests at my own ordination luncheon, which was held in that sacred place.”
He also mentioned the Spiritual Life Center, and the Catholic Care Center, about which Bishop Gerber said, “We cannot care for everyone, but we can show how everyone should be cared for.”
Bishop Kemme talked about how Bishop Gerber understood that the source of “stewardship grace” in the diocese was the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “How true that surely is. His promotion of adoration chapels has truly changed the landscape of our diocese.”
Bishop Gerber was also instrumental in the merger of the Catholic hospitals in Wichita into Via Christi, the way of Christ. Related to the hospitals is the love he had for the Guadalupe Clinic, a diocesan health ministry, Bishop Kemme said, praising him about how he nurtured Catholic Charities’ ministries of the St. Anthony Family Shelter, Harbor House, and Adult Day Care Services.
The diocesan partnership with Newman University was strengthened and has resulted in the offering of advanced degrees in theology and pastoral ministry, as well as his support for the new Gerber Science Center, a state of the art facility for those being trained in the fields of health and health-related science.
“He loved his priests and seminarians and wanted the presbyterate to grow and become even more dedicated,” Bishop Kemme said. “He set the bar high for seminarian recruitment and formation, resulting today in a larger than usual presbyterate.”
Bishop Gerber would be quick to point out that the things he will be remembered for are not about him, Bishop Kemme said. “These are here solely to glorify God and not us. Cursed will we be, if we ever forget this. Bishop Gerber would not allow himself to be glorified by any of these accomplishments and nor should we.”
It is now up to those still on this side of death, he said, to “further these good works and others and to infuse them with the sustaining power of our faith, so that we, who have received them as blessings, will become fully alive, as he was, as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Kemme opened his homily by recalling the aphorism that people will not always remember what we say to them, but they will always remember how we made them feel.
“I am certain that each of us has had the experience of sharing an encounter, a meeting, a moment with Bishop Gerber when he made us feel as though we were the only one in the room or that we were so very important to him, indeed, a dear friend, he said.
“This is how I imagine the ministry of Jesus Christ as he walked the roads of Palestine and met the many people we hear about in the Gospel. Bishop Gerber modeled that unique and life changing ability.”
Bishop Kemme said he felt that every time he met Bishop Gerber. “I relished those seemingly chance meetings when I could ask him for some advice and receive the blessing of his experience and wisdom,” he said. “Bishop Gerber never came to those moments without his characteristically infectious smile which lit up his face as our eyes met and as our greetings were exchanged, the extension of his warm handshake, and his usual expression, ‘it is so good to see you.’”
He added that he will be forever grateful to have been given the privilege of knowing and loving him as a brother bishop and to witness the profound impact he has had on the church and the diocese.
About two weeks previous, Bishop Kemme said, he had what would be his last encounter with Bishop Gerber.
“As he and I sat together at the table for lunch at the Priest Retirement Center and when the others had already left, I asked about his health, which he was always reticent to talk about, but which I knew to be increasingly deteriorating. He paused and looked deeply into my eyes and said, ‘Carl, I am ready for whatever God wants and whenever he wants it. I have only gratitude.’
“As I walked back to my home, not knowing of course those would be the last words he would speak to me in this life, I felt a deep sense of blessing. To come to the end of one’s long, and yet challenging life and ministry, to have weathered the many storms of life and service in the church, such as Bishop Gerber did, much of it hidden from the observance of his family, fellow priests, and many friends, and to come to a sense of deep and abiding peace and gratitude, is no small gift.”
Bishop Kemme said gratitude is the essence of stewardship, which will always be associated with Bishop Gerber.
“He knew, and more importantly, lived stewardship as a grateful response of a Christian disciple, who recognizes God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor. Bishop Gerber was undeniably a true Christian steward to the very end, having ‘only gratitude’ to take with him into the Kingdom of heaven.”
Bishop Gerber was an “amazing gift of a man,” he said, who in 87 years, in addition to being a devoted, son, brother, uncle, and great uncle, was also called to be a faithful servant priest and pastor, and a pastoral and sensitively caring bishop.
“In all of this, he was the consummate Christian disciple,” he said. “We thank God for Bishop Gerber’s life and ministry as we entrust his noble soul to our eternal Father and as we reverently bury his body, as a temple of the Triune God, in the ground of this world he love so much.
“There it will wait in hope for the resurrection to a new life, in that new heaven and that new earth promised and bequeathed to us by God himself. May our prayer and praise deepen our own grateful response to God’s abundant blessings as we strive to model our own stewardship after his so that we too will share the glory the we believe to be his now and for all eternity.”
Concelebrating along with the diocesan priests and visiting priests were Abp. Paul Coakley, of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; Bishop James Conley and Bishop Emeritus Fabian W. Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska; Bishop Gerald L. Vincke of the Diocese of Salina; Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore and Bishop John B. Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City; Abp. Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas; Bishop William Shawn McKnight and Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri; Bishop Edward M. Rice, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri; and Abbot Benedict Neenan of Conception Abbey in Missouri.
Pallbearers were Fathers David Lies, Patrick York, John Lanzrath, Daniel Spexarth, Ken Van Haverbeke, and Matt McGinness. Over 100 persons, the staff, volunteers, friends and guests of The Lord’s Diner, the Guadalupe Clinic, Harbor House, St. Anthony Family Shelter, and Newman University were honorary pallbearers.
Special instrumentalists accompanied the Cathedral’s music ministry, which was joined by the St. Anthony Parish Vietnamese Choir. Honor guards were Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus and Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
A lunch was held in Good Shepherd hall after the Mass. Burial was at Ascension Cemetery in Wichita that afternoon.

Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gilmore delivered the homily at the vigil that night. (Advance photos)

Bishop Gilmore homilist at vespers
Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gilmore, retired bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City and a priest under Bishop Gerber, gave the homily at the solemn vespers Monday night in the Cathedral.
After talking about the “heart” of Bishop Gerber and mentioning the “outside” of Bishop Gerber that the public knew – stewardship, the Catholic Life Center, the Spiritual Life Center, and The Lord’s Diner – Bishop Gilmore described the interior of Bishop Gerber as “the sharing of Trinitarian life.”
Bishop Gilmore also likened Bishop Gerber to Job, whom he described as kindred spirits, searchers in hard times, who “died old and full of years.”
“Job said: ‘I have dealt with things I do not understand; things too wonderful for me which I cannot know,’” Bishop Gilmore said. “Bishop Gerber told me similar things many, many, times over the years I worked with him: things he did not understand; things too filled with wonder for words; things past his knowing.”
All of you know the outside story of Bishop Gerber’s life, he said. “Not many of you know the inside story of this simple, but many-layered man.”

Bishop Carl A. Kemme talked about his memories of Bishop Gerber in his homily at Bishop Gerber’s funeral Mass.
Visitors pray over the body of Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber Monday afternoon, Oct. 8, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
A book of the Gospels, below, sits atop Bishop Gerber’s casket at this funeral Oct. 9.
Dodge City Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gilmore, wearing a mitre, and Archbishop Paul Coakley, of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, at the vigil service on Oct. 8
Bishops from throughout the Midwest attended the funeral Mass of Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber.
The church crowd overflowed into the gathering space.