David Gittrich was a powerful pro-life force

“Keep up the fight for life.”
The last statement published by David Gittrich summarized his sense of purpose for the past 35 years: an unending, irrepressible drive to protect the unborn.
Gittrich died of kidney cancer Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph in Wichita. He was 71.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at Monday, Oct. 23, at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita. Fifteen priests of the Diocese of Wichita celebrated the Mass.
Father Curtis Hecker, the main celebrant, told the overflowing church that he always felt special knowing that he was Gittrich’s godson – until he found out that the pro-life stalwart was godfather “to half of the children in Wichita.”
He said Gittrich lived an honorable life, adding that he was the single-most powerful pro-life force he had ever known.
“That conviction drove him to do what he did day-in and day-out,” Father Hecker said, urging those at the funeral to continue Gittrich’s work – and reminding them that life is short.
The pro-life battle isn’t over, he said, and the pro-lifers have lost a general.
Father Hecker also read a letter from Bishop James D. Conley, a priest ordained for the Diocese of Wichita who is now bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who talked about meeting Gittrich in 1985 and how he worked closely with him for years.
As a result, “I spent a lot of time in jail with David,” the bishop said, referring to the Summer of Mercy protests in front of the abortion clinic in Wichita that resulted in arrests of clergy and other pro-lifers.
Bishop Conley said the incarceration was a gift, in that he felt like one of the early apostles, imprisoned for his beliefs.
Alluding to David in the Old Testament, Bishop Conley wrote that God used David Gittrich in a mighty way, adding that Gittrich “faced the evil Goliaths of our day.”
In a statement released by Kansans for Life hours before his death, Gittrich wrote:
“Thank you for your prayers. Cancer is winning… I’d love to tell you all how much I love you… You can visit, but just to say goodbye, no visiting, or you can send cards if you want to. Pray for a peaceful death with no suffering. Keep up the fight for life.”
Gittrich was born on Dec. 20, 1946, in Wichita. He attended Blessed Sacrament School and graduated in 1964 from Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School. In 1982 he was managing the Maize Food Mart, one of four grocery stores owned by his father, when a friend showed Gittrich the pro-life documentary “Assignment Life.”
That began his unrelenting drive to protect the unborn.
He became involved in pro-life groups and with like-minded individuals incorporated Kansans for Life. Gittrich became the executive director of KFL in 1989 and helped organize community pro-life groups. At one point there were 85 KFL chapters in the state.
He served as executive director until 2000 when he moved to Kansas City to serve as director of the Respect Life office for the archdiocese. He returned to Kansans for Life in 2002 and served as development director until his death.
Bonnie Toombs, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Social Justice Office, described Gittrich as being passionate about protecting the lives of the unborn.
“He spent a great deal of time establishing a strong grassroots presence in Kansas to speak out at every level of government for the most vulnerable – and he loved doing it. I will miss having David to share ideas with, and to learn what his next plan was going to be.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said in a statement: “David lived his life to fight for the lives of others, and we are so grateful.”
Roberts added that Gittrich worked at a time when few people understood the severity regarding the issue of life. “He led the charge in the battle to protect the lives of our most vulnerable, and built a grassroots army through education and compassion. His advocacy changed the political landscape in Kansas.

Evening of Appreciation Nov. 8
Kansans for Life has planned an “Night of Appreciation for David Gittrich” on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita. The doors will open at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7. The event was planned before Gittrich’s death, and will still go forward.

Obituaries, November 3, 2017

Wyatt Sean, 20, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hutchinson, Oct. 10.
Keith, 59, St. Jude, Wichita, Oct. 11.
Michelle I., 44, St. Vincent de Paul, Andover, Oct. 11.
Richard Lee, 70, St. Anne, Wichita, Oct. 12.
Cleo M., 95, St. Patrick, Chanute, Oct. 14.
Patricia, 70, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, Oct. 15.
Rita D. (Smithheisler), 95, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Oct. 16.
Rolly F., 81, St. Joseph, Wichita, Oct. 16.
Bret A., 54, Mother of God, Oswego, Oct. 16.
Daniel Joseph, 57, St. Mary, Newton, Oct. 16.
Frank James, 92, Pittsburg, Oct. 17.
David Alan, 70, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Oct. 17.
Kathleen Ann (Acker), 71, Church of the Resurrection, Wichita, Oct. 17.
Edward M., 91, St. John, Iola, Oct. 17.
Joan, 84, St. Catherine of Siena, Wichita, Oct. 18.
George H., MD, FAAP, FACC, 85, Church of the Magalen, Wichita, Oct. 18.
Nick M., 92, St. Joseph, Conway Springs, Oct. 18.
Dianna, 70, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Oct. 18.
Stephen J., 68, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Oct. 18.
Agustin D., 80, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Wichita, Oct. 19.
Rita Marie (Suddarth), 86, St. Joseph, Andale, Oct. 19.
Socorro, 87, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Oct. 19.
L. Dee, 72, St. James, Augusta, Oct. 19.
Barbara Ann, RN, 79, St. Mary, Derby, Oct. 19.
Denise Ann (Ast), 58, Christ the King, Wichita, Oct. 21.
Ruth R., 87, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Oct. 21.
Clarence J., 97, Catholic Care Center, Wichita, Oct. 21.
Genevieve, 95, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, Oct. 21.
Lea J., 73, St. James, Augusta, Oct. 22.
Constance W., 83, Our Lady of Lourdes, Pittsburg, Oct. 22.
Leo C., 85, St. Anthony, Garden Plain, Oct. 22.
Robert “Bobby,” 68, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Oct. 23.
Nadine (Feuerborn), 81, St. Patrick, Wichita, Oct. 24.
Rochelle J. “Rocky,” 67, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, Oct. 24.
Johnny Lee, 66, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, Oct. 25.
Mary Irene, 88, St. Louis, Waterloo, Oct. 26.

Obituaries, October 20, 2017

Loretta C. (Ernstmann), 99, All Saints, Wichita, Sept. 24.
Fr. Joseph Thuc, 61, St. Anthony, Wichita, Sept. 27.
Donald Alexander, 81, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Sept. 27.
Bradley Dee, 55, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Sept. 28.
Steve A., 67, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Sept. 28.
Brenda Lee Silcott, 65, Immaculate Conception, Danville, Sept. 29.
Thomas Joseph, 68, St. Mary, Derby, Oct. 1.
Beatrice, 78, Church of the Resurrection, Wichita, Oct. 2.
Mary F., 98, St. John, El Dorado, Oct. 2.
Caroline Llamas “Carole,” 70, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Newton, Oct. 2.
Charles “Chuck,” St. John, El Dorado, Oct. 3.
Adam Wesley, 25, St. Anthony/St. Rose, Wellington, Oct. 4.
Frances J., 91, Sacred Heart, Frontenac, Oct. 6.
Iris Elaine (McAlpine), 74, Holy Savior, Wichita, Oct. 5.
Sue, 94, St. Pius X Student Center, Pittsburg, Oct. 6.
Shirley A., 81, St. John, El Dorado, Oct. 6.
Doris Rae, 93, St. Patrick, Parsons, Oct. 9.
Lyle K., 71, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, Oct. 11.

Fr. Leroy Linnebur dies Sept. 12 at age 85

Father Leroy Linnebur, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for nearly 56 years, died Tuesday, Sept. 12, at the Catholic Care Center in Wichita.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Saturday, Sept. 16, at Sacred Heart Church in Colwich.
Father Tom Scaletty, a retired priest of the diocese, said Father Linnebur will be “greatly missed.”
Father Leroy was part of a group of priests who met on Tuesdays for golf and a meal.
“Fr. Leroy was a better cook than golfer. He had a great sense of humor,” he said, adding, “May he rest in peace!”
Father Linnebur was born on a farm near Colwich on July 24, 1932, to Bill and Alvine Linnebur. He attended grade school in Colwich and high school in Andale. After graduating, he helped his parents raise cattle for a couple of years, and then decided to begin studying for the priesthood.
Father Linnebur attended the North American College in Rome, Italy, and was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1961.
He served as an assistant at St. Patrick Parish, Kingman; All Saints and Magdalen in Wichita; and at Sacred Heart in Frontenac after his ordination. Father Linnebur was assigned to St. Mary High School in Pittsburg in 1966 and two years later to Trinity High School in Hutchinson.
In 1970 he served as administrator of Holy Trinity, Little River, while continuing his duties in Hutchinson. Father Linnebur was named pastor of Sacred Heart in Cunningham in 1975; St. John, El Dorado in 1978; St. Joseph, Conway Springs and St. Martin, Caldwell, in 1983; and St. John, Clonmel in 1992. He retired in 2002.
Survivors are sisters, Mary Youngers of Kingman, and Sister Mary Ruth of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; brothers Wayne and Donald of Wichita, and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial has been established with the Diocese of Wichita’s Priest Education and Retirement Fund.

Sr. Josephine O’Gorman dies Sept. 21 at age 86

Sister Josephine O’Gorman, 86, died Sept. 21. She had been a Sister of St. Joseph for nearly 70 years. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Mt. St. Mary’s Convent in Wichita.
Sr. Josephine was born on July 25, 1931, in Tulamore, County Meath, Ireland. She was educated in the elementary National School in Tallow and Assumption High School. At the age of 16 she left Ireland to join the Sisters of St. Joseph in Wichita, receiving the habit on March 19, 1948. She made her final profession on July 26, 1953.
Sr. Josephine’s education continued at Sacred Heart Junior College, Friends University, Ft. Hays State University, before receiving a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City. She began her ministry as a housekeeper for two years, and moved to teaching where she served schools in the Diocese of Wichita and Dodge City in Hoisington, Iola, Pratt, Coffeyville, Derby, Kingman, and Wichita.
In 1985 she began working in pastoral ministry at St. Teresa Parish in Hutchinson, working in adult education and the parish RCIA program. She continued this ministry after moving to Danville, Kansas, working in the combined parishes of Danville/Harper/Anthony where she formed study groups, directed the RCIA process, and visited the elderly in the parishes. She followed this with a move to Ponca City, Oklahoma, to serve as chaplain in Westminster Village in 1997.
Sr. Josephine never truly retired. Upon returning to Mt. St. Mary’s in Wichita, she began volunteering by organizing Bible study groups, supporting the CSJ Associate program, providing prayerful support and guidance for clients and staff of Dear Neighbor Ministries and Stepstone, as well as helping with fundraising activities. Her grace and hospitality to visitors of the convent and the CSJ sponsored ministries will long be remembered by those who met her.
Memorial contributions in her name may be made to Dear Neighbor Ministries, Inc. and/or StepStone 3700 E. Lincoln, Wichita, KS 67218.

Sr. Renee Kirmer dies Sept. 20 in Wichita

Sister Mary Renee Kirmer, 81, died Wednesday, Sept. 20. Sister Renee had been a professed Adorer of the Blood of Christ for 57 years.
A Mass of Resurrection was celebrated for her on Monday, Sept. 25, at the ASC’s Wichita Center. Burial was in the Wichita Center cemetery.
Sr. Renee was born on Dec. 28, 1935, near Spearville, Kansas, the sixth child of Frank and Albina (Penka) Kirmer. She was baptized at St. John the Baptist Church.
Her family later moved to Dodge City where she played softball, tennis, and basketball. She was the valedictorian of her 1953 Dodge City High School graduating class, and later worked there for five years as the principal’s secretary.
She graduated in 1963 from Sacred Heart College, earning a bachelor’s degree in business and theology. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Notre Dame University in 1970, and a master’s degree in spirituality from the University of San Francisco in 1993.
She entered the Adorer community in Wichita in September, 1958. She professed her first vows on July 1, 1960, and her permanent vows on July 1, 1965.
Sr. Renee did most of her ministry in Wichita as director of aspirants, high school teacher, Sacred Heart College director of records and admissions, provincial councilor, pastoral team member, pastoral associate, and director of several diocesan planning committees.
She served on the boards of Villa Maria in Mulvane; St. Joseph Villa in David City, Neb.; Wichita diocesan board of education, and Newman University.
Sr. Renee was pastoral associate at St. Mary’s Cathedral for 19 years and was active in the parish’s committees, classes, and events. As her farewell gift, the parish bought her a plane ticket to Rome so that she could attend the canonization of the Adorers’ founder, St. Maria De Mattias, in May 2003.
In 2008, she took on the ministry of welcoming women who were considering a vocation with the Adorers. She also helped sisters with budgeting, and volunteered at Newman University’s registrar’s office, Botanica, and The Lord’s Diner, and served as a board member for the Center of Hope.
Memorial donations may be made online at adorers.org, or to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, U.S. Region Mission Center, 4233 Sulphur Ave., St. Louis, Missouri, 63109.

Obituaries, October 6, 2017

Jeannette K., 89, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, Sept. 6.
Harold Thomas “Cupcake,” 84, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Sept. 7.
Daniel John, 74, St. Vincent de Paul, Andover, Sept. 7.
Carolyn S., 81, St. Bridget, Scammon, Sept. 8.
Raymond Nicholas “Ray,” 86, St. Catherine of Siena, Wichita, Sept. 8.
Carol Jeanette, 67, Immaculate Conception, Danville, Sept. 9.
Rose V., 83, St. Mary, Derby, Sept. 9.
John Paul, 93, St. Joseph, Ost, Sept. 9.
Carmen, 92, St. Patrick, Parsons, Sept. 10.
Carol Jane, 62, St. Margaret Mary, Wichita, Sept. 10.
Vincent Joseph, 72, All Saints, Wichita, Sept. 10.
Fred F., 87, St. Joseph, Arma, Sept. 11.
Robert E., 86, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Sept. 11.
George L., 76, St. Margaret Mary, Wichita, Sept. 11.
Lewis B., 85, St. Mary, Aleppo, Sept. 11.
Armando “Herman,” 88, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Newton, Sept. 12.
Stanley R., 66, St. Joseph, Wichita, Sept. 12.
Charles R., 83, Mother of God, Oswego, Sept. 14.
Marjorie, 83, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Sept. 14.
Margaret Rose, 76, St. Catherine of Siena, Wichita, Sept. 15.
Harold H. “Harry,” 82, St. Anthony, Garden Plain, Sept. 16.
Joseph John, 83, St. Cecilia, Haysville, Sept. 16.
John L., 73, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hutchinson, Sept. 17.
Paula Marie, 93, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Wichita, Sept. 17.
Sondra K. (Holder), 75, Christ the King, Wichita, Sept. 18.
Janet Gail, 64, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, Sept. 19.
Carolyn Jean, 70, St. Joseph, Wichita, Sept. 20.
Esther Marie, 93, St. Mary, Derby, Sept. 20.
Enrique A., 86, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Sept. 20.
Erna M., 87, St. Mary, Newton, Sept. 20.
Emma Angela, 101, Sacred Heart, Frontenac, Sept. 20.
Ron, 56, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, Sept. 21.
Jerald, 84, St. Martin, Caldwell, Sept. 21.
Norman, 75, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Sept. 21.
Michael J., 66, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Sept. 21.
Chad L. (Berger), 49, St. Mary, Newton, Sept. 22.
Donald Mack “Don,” 89, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, Sept. 23.
Lisa Marie, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Sept. 23.
Edna “Sunni,” 63, St. John, Clonmel, Sept. 23.
Arky, 93, Sacred Heart, Arkansas City, Sept. 24.
Sybil A., 98, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, Sept. 25.
Donald Alexander, 81, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Sept. 27.

Sr. Rose Marie Montpetit dies Sept. 1 in Wichita at 89

Sister Rose Marie Montpetit, 89, a Sister of St. Joseph for 68 years, died Sept. 1 at Marian Hall West in Wichita.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Mt. St. Mary’s Convent in Wichita.
Sister Rose was born in Taycheiah, Wisconsin, on Oct. 24, 1927, was adopted by Celestin J. and Mary Dufresne Montpetit, and grew up as their only child. After graduating in 1946 from Somerset High School in Somerset, Wisconsin, she worked for the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company.
This was not particularly satisfying for her so she entered the Congregation of St. Joseph in Crookston, Minnesota, on Sept. 8, 1949. On March 18, 1950, she received the habit and professed perpetual vows on Aug. 8, 1955.
Sister Rose’s education continued at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato, Minnesota, where she graduated in 1953 as a licensed practical nurse. She worked in Minnesota hospitals in Mankato, Park Rapids, Baudette, and Crookston, Minnesota, and Houma, Louisiana. In 1986 and until her retirement, her ministry focused mainly on elder care in Nursing Homes and Home Health in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
She moved to Wichita in October of 2010 where she retired and became a resident of Marian Hall at Mt. St. Mary’s Convent. She was preceded in death by her parents and in addition to members of her religious community she is survived by a number of Dufresne and Montpetit cousins and many friends.
Memorial contributions in her name may be made to Dear Neighbor Ministries, Inc. or the Retirement Fund of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 3700 E. Lincoln, Wichita, KS 67218.

Obituaries, September 15, 2017

Nathaniel Franklin, 21, Christ the King, Wichita, Aug. 5.
Larry Lee, 78, Holy Spirit, Goddard, Aug. 18.
Ralph Robert, Sr., 75, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Aug. 23.
Janet Irene (Snell), 84, St. Anne, Wichita, Aug. 23.
Mary Jean, 68, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Aug. 23.
Victor W., 85, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Aug. 24.
Joyce Elaine, 79, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hutchinson, Aug. 24.
Barbara Jean, 60, St. Francis, St. Paul, Aug. 24.
Elizabeth, 72, St. Peter, Schulte, Aug. 25.
Loretta Elizabeth, 96, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Aug. 25.
Brett Lee, 58, St. Mary, Newton, Aug. 26.
Anna Lee, 86, Our Lady of Lourdes, Pittsburg, Aug. 26.
Samuel P., 57, Pittsburg, Aug. 26.
Shirley Jean, 88, St. James, Augusta, Aug. 31.
Joe Raul, 86, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Aug. 27.
Gilbert Leroy, 73, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Aug. 27.
Stan, 51, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hutchinson, Aug. 28.
Mary Ann, 80, St. Joseph, McPherson, Aug. 29.
Kristie Sue (Herman), 46, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, Aug. 30.
Terry Dean, St. Margaret Mary, Wichita, Aug. 30.
Janet, 70, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, Aug. 30.
Connie, 82, All Saints, Wichita, Aug. 30.
Audrey, 92, St. Teresa, Hutchinson, Aug. 30.
Alan Robert “Bobby,” 61, St. Anne, Wichita, Aug. 31.
Joseph, 72, St. Joseph, Conway Springs, Aug. 31.
Sue Ann (Dalton), 90, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, Sept. 1.
Connie Elpers, 68, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, Sept. 2.
Jacqueline J., 52, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, Sept. 2.
Joyce Elaine, 76, St. Michael, Girard, Sept. 2.
Robert “Bob,” 82, St. Patrick, Wichita, Sept. 3.
Lee Paul, 90, Sacred Heart, Frontenac, Sept. 3.
Timothy J., 52, St. Joseph, Andale, Sept. 4.
Jean M., 76, Parsons, Sept. 4.
Greg, 85, Church of the Resurrection, Wichita, Sept. 5.

Services for Fr. Grabner Aug. 29 in Neodesha

Father died Aug. 25 having served the Diocese of Wichita for 58 years
Father Eugene W. Grabner, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita for 58 years, died Friday, Aug. 25, at St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, Missouri. He was 84.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Tuesday, Aug. 29, at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Neodesha. He was buried in Neodesha.
Father was born on June 25, 1933, in Neodesha, and studied for the priesthood at Conception Seminary, Conception, Missouri, and St. Thomas Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.
After his ordination on May 28, 1959, at St. Ignatius Church in Neodesha, Father Grabner served in the 1960s as an assistant pastor at All Saints, Wichita; St. Patrick, Parsons; Sacred Heart, Frontenac; Sacred Heart, Colwich; St. Patrick, Kingman; and St. Mary, Newton.
He was named an assistant at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Pittsburg in 1970 where he also served as chaplain of Colgan High School. He was named an assistant at St. Anthony-St. Rose in Wellington in 1971 while serving as diocesan Director of Youth. Later that year he was named chaplain of Mount St. Mary Convent in Wichita.
In 1974 Father Grabner was named pastor of St. John Parish in Zenda. Two years later he was moved to become pastor of Sacred Heart, Eureka; St. Teresa, Madison; and St. John, Hamilton.
In 1981 he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish in McPherson. While pastor there he helped found St. Bridget of Sweden Parish in Lindsborg and oversaw the building of the church, which also serves the needs of Catholic students attending Bethany College there.
While reading about the life of St. Bridget of Sweden, Father Grabner was inspired to commission a crucifix fashioned after the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin. The priests of the Diocese of Wichita paid for the crucifix sculpted by western artist Frank Reese.
Father Graber was named pastor of Holy Name in Winfield and St. Mary in Oxford in 1987, and in 1992 was named pastor of St. Mary in Newton.
In 1995 he served as chaplain for Mercy Hospital and the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Ft. Scott. He was named pastor of St. Rose of Lima, Columbus, and St. Bridget, Scammon, in 1998. He retired from active ministry in 2003.
Father Grabner has a brother, Benedictine Father Donald Grabner.
A Father Eugene W. Grabner Seminary Burse has been established with the Diocese of Wichita.