An undated photo of a young Father Gerber. He was ordained at St. Patrick Church in Kingman on May 19, 1959.

Like most teenagers, Eugene Gerber wasn’t sure about his future.
Growing up in the small town of Waterloo, Kansas, limited his outlook.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be a priest,” Bishop Gerber said about his youth in an interview many years ago.
So, he surprised himself when he enrolled in the high school associated with Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri.
“I can’t even remember making the decision to go,” he said. But, he did remember a knee injury resulting from playing football. As a result, Gerber left in mid-semester of his second year and finished high school in Kingman.
He had no intention of returning to the seminary after high school, but eventually the Holy Spirit began tugging him back to priestly studies.
“I called the seminary and asked if they would take me back because they were a couple months into the year and they said yes, come,” he said.
After two years at the seminary the future bishop told his spiritual director that he didn’t know if he would be returning the next year. “You should stay,” his spiritual director said. “This is where you belong.”
The boy from Kingman didn’t listen, returned to Kansas and enrolled at Wichita University majoring in accounting with a minor in economics.
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done. In the fall of 1953, with plans to marry the next year, Gerber realized he was destined to become a spiritual father.
“The Lord hit me between the eyes with a mallet giving me a passage from scripture that was unmistakable and very familiar to me being raised on a farm. The scripture was ‘he who puts his hand in the plow and turns around is not worthy of me.’ I knew I had to go back to the seminary.”
He enrolled at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver where he studied philosophy for two years and theology for four.
On May 19, 1959, Gerber was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita at St. Patrick Church in Kingman.
Although he is known as one of the fathers of stewardship in the diocese and oversaw the founding of the Catholic Life Center, he was particularly happy with The Lords’ Diner, which opened on Feb. 14, 2002.
“Living at the cathedral and the chancery a half block away, I would come over at night or later in the day and meet the hungry. I became friends with many over a period of time,” said Gerber.
He said the Lord slipped the idea of the Lord’s Diner into his heart and that the idea became a vision, which led to a vision and a mission, which resulted in an action plan.
“The Lord has used me to give to the people trust. I put a lot of premium on making sure that trust was in place. The greatest gift back to me was knowing so many people. Our hearts tugging at each other, our minds thinking through things, becoming friends, having a sense of mission together, having a sense of church together, that was the giving and that was the receiving. It’s all the people… All that folds together so the people knew me and I knew them and I think that is what the Lord expects.”

Bishop Gerber’s earlier years
Bishop Gerber wrote in October 1986 that reflecting on the 10th anniversary of his being named a bishop on Oct. 16, 1976, that he would not change a thing in the decade.
“Everything has worked out to the good – even the moments, the days of chaos; the moments…,” he said. “Such moments, such days, are not perceived as the source of life. To remember the life that has come forth flows easily. The result is only gratitude.”
He said he was grateful to be a priest and a bishop. “It is, however, consoling to know that the Lord is the chief Shepherd. The acknowledgment of that reality is not a cop-out but a source of trust.”
He said he was grateful for the increasing sensitivity he had to issues of peace and justice.
“There is so much injustice in the world – from the disparaging word to feuding and to the many forms of violence. The unwanted mess and discarding of human beings creates so much pain and hurt. Rightfully people look to the church for reconciliation and a sense of belonging. We are all wounded healers.”
He said in his first 10 years of episcopacy he sensed a greater reality that God was with him shepherding his people, “mingling our lives, touching us at every turn as we strive to love and serve each other.”
As a result he said he felt gratitude. “These moments remind us that there is a season for everything under the sun… A time to die… To be born… To laugh… To cry… To die. In the end there is only gratitude.”

Named to Dodge City
The apostolic delegate to the United States Archbishop Jean Jadot announced on Oct. 27, 1976, that Father Eugene J. Gerber had been appointed by Pope Paul VI to be bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City.
He was ordained a bishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita on Dec. 14, 1976. Assisting in the ordination were Bishop Marion F. Forst, second bishop of Dodge City, and Bishop Richard Hanifen, auxiliary bishop of Denver. Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate, and Cardinal John Carberry, archbishop of St. Louis, presided at the ordination.
The following day, installation ceremonies were held in the Civic Center in Dodge City. The installing prelates were Archbishop Jadot and the Most Rev. Ignatius J. Strecker, archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas. Clergy, religious, and laity made up the more than 1,600 persons in attendance.
Bishop Gerber was the first native of Kansas to lead the Dodge City diocese. Under Bishop Gerber’s leadership the ministries continued to grow with the establishment of the Apostolate with Disabled Persons, the Vicariate for Spanish-Speaking, Permanent Diaconate, Aging Ministry, Rural Life Program, RENEW, Vocations Program, Evangelization and the Peace and Justice Office.
On Nov. 23, 1982, after only six years in Dodge City, Bishop Gerber was appointed to lead the Diocese of Wichita. He was installed Feb. 9, 1983, at Century II in Wichita. When Bishop Gerber was installed he said that evening would be etched in his heart because of its historical significance in his life, and the life the diocese.
“When the apostolic delegate, during the November meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, told me that the Holy Father had appointed me as Bishop of Wichita, it was accompanied by such tranquility and peace that any response short of yes could not long have been entertained. In the days since then I have found myself reflecting back to touch that moment of peace and to draw on the trust that comes from it.”
Bishop Gerber told those at his installation that a few of them could remember the death of Bishop Hennessey in 1920, a few more the death of Bishop Schwertner in 1939, and still more the death of Bishop Winkelmann in 1946.
“For most of us, the experience in the change of bishops resulted not from death, but from transfer or retirement. That enables us to better express our gratitude to the bishops who have meant so much to us and enables a longer time to savor the results of sharing priestly life and ministry.”
He also said the world is in need of disciples fully and totally committed to Jesus Christ, willing to place their entire being, including their weaknesses, at the disposal of the master. “Only in this way will the disciple, and today’s world, preach the centrality of Jesus Christ in human history; created a community open to the spirit of Jesus; withstand evil wherever it appears; affirm good wherever it is recognized; heal the sheep where wounded; warm the lambs where cold. The disciple is no better than the master. We, too, need to be shepherded in the same way in which we are called to shepherd others.”

Priests are Diocese of Wichita’s greatest asset
Bishop Gerber said one of the greatest assets of the Diocese of Wichita was the love its priests have for one another.
“It’s the unity and fraternity among us. It’s that for which Christ prayed the night before his death. It’s that which he said would be the one characteristic by which we would be known as his disciples.”
He said it was important that priests remember that their work is fundamentally God’s work.
“We are not the living water, but the pipe through which it flows. When we make a mistake and think we are the living water, we’re in for real trouble and our very ministry becomes a burden to the people we serve.”
He stressed the importance of priests to be men of prayer – despite their busy lives.
“The absence of serious prayer leaves our lives feeling empty, scattered, and fragmented. The pipe becomes rusty, corroded, and bent out of shape. The priest who comes to serve usually also comes to pray. Such a priest probably needs, more than anything else, to allow quality time for himself. There is a balance here that is not easily maintained in the changing roles and multiple demands of our times.”

Bishop Olmsted named coadjutor
In February 1999, when Msgr. Thomas J. Olmsted was named coadjutor bishop, Bishop Gerber said he realized the year previous that the diocese would be best served by gradually transferring duties to his successor.
He added that for a long time he has had two passions in his life: “One is a passion to be united personally with Jesus Christ. The second is a passion to be of service to the people.”
The most enriching part of his 40 years as a bishop in priest he said at the time has been when he’s been in direct ministry.
“As a diocesan bishop, you get bogged down and greatly distracted with administrative detail. I look forward to sitting some of that aside and devoting more and more of my time to direct contact with the people.”