This year’s Christmas Eve Mass was live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photos)

Bishop Kemme talks about how a poor family in Haiti taught him a beautiful lesson of giving
Just as the first Christmas story involved livestock surrounding the newborn Son of God, one of Bishop Carl A. Kemme’s most memorable Christmas stories also involves a farm animal – a chicken.
Bishop Kemme told those attending the Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that about 10 years ago he visited Haiti, which he described as “unquestionably” the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
“The poverty you experienced there is gripping, revolting, and mind-boggling. So many people live in abject poverty. That is one aspect of Haiti,” he said.
“The second is about the Haitian people themselves. Ironically, you will never meet a more joyful, exuberant, happy, and gracious people on the earth. Though they are dirt poor, they live their lives with smiles, joy, and peace. I experienced this firsthand during my time there.”
Bishop Kemme explained that he was visiting the island country because he was invited by a priest friend who was celebrating the 25th jubilee of his ordination. While there the friend wanted then-Father Kemme to visit a family in the priest’s hometown.
“As we drove up to what was presumably their little house, although it looked nothing like any house in this country, the whole family came running out of the place, ready to welcome us to their humble home with smiles on their faces, and with warm embraces.”
Bishop Kemme said he was offered the most comfortable chair in the home – the only chair in the home.
With Bishop Kemme’s priest-friend interpreting, the family shared their joy of having him as their guest and how much it meant to them.
“As this was happening, I noticed the father and his two or three sons go outside and began making all kinds of commotion. After a few minutes, they came in and presented me with a chicken for a gift – a live chicken,” he said.
After Bishop explained to his priest-friend that he couldn’t take the chicken, the priest quietly explained that it is a sign of their hospitality to offer their guests the best they have to give and that they would be embarrassed if he did not take it.
“So he suggested that I accept the chicken and then give it back to them as my gift to their family along with some other toiletries, food, and other items we had brought with us.”
The family beamed with great joy as the gift they gave to him – the very best – became part of the gifts he offered them.
“Friends, I can think of no better way to explain what Christmas is really all about than by the lessons of this true story: Like that humble, poor family in Haiti did for me, God has given us his very best in the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. He could not have given us anything better because he gave himself, for in Jesus, we see the love of the invisible God made visible, concrete, human and personal”
God is no longer distant, Bishop Kemme said, he is so close as to share our human nature in all things but sin.
“And this gift was given when in the fullness of time God sent His only begotten Son from heaven to be born in time as Jesus, son of God and son of Mary. But like all God’s gifts to his people, even the best one – and especially the best one – is given to be shared with others.”
Our mission, our purpose as Christians, is to make manifest the love of God in Christ Jesus, he said.
“So as we make our way back home tonight and begin the octave of Christmas, the eight-day celebration of Christ’s birth, and as we prepare to begin a new year, may we never forget that God has given each of us his very best.
“As humble, poor creatures in the face of such incredible generosity, how can I offer the Lord anything less than our very best, the first fruits of our time, our talent, and our treasure for even these are gifts from God given to us so that we can give them back to him and through him and the church to others.”
Bishop Kemme celebrated Mass on Christmas Day at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme shared a personal Christmas story at the Christmas Eve Mass in the Cathedral.