New bishop sees 'great joy' in helping diocese write its 'next chapter'
Catholic News Service photo
Msgr. Carl A. Kemme, 53, gestures during a news conference at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., after Pope Francis appointed him bishop of Wichita. Bishop-designate Kemme has been vicar general and moderator of the curia in the Diocese of Sprin gfield, Ill., since 2010.
Catholic News Service
WICHITA, Kan. — When someone told Bishop-designate Carl A. Kemme that he would be a bishop someday, he would always reply with: "That won't happen because God is good."
"Well, now I'm going to have to rethink that a little bit," he said at a news conference Feb. 20, announcing his appointment as the next bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.
Bishop-designate Kemme, 53, the vicar general of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., will succeed Bishop Michael O. Jackels, now an archbishop and head of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, Archdiocese. He was appointed there in April 2013.
The episcopal ordination and installation of Wichita's newly named bishop has been scheduled for May 1.
"Without a doubt, Pope Francis could have chosen a far more qualified candidate, but in God's mysterious plan he has chosen me, which is a humbling and sobering experience," he said to about 50 people attending the news conference. "I receive all of this as a sign of how God often chooses the least qualified, the weak, and the sinful to accomplish his mission in the world."
Bishop-designate Kemme expressed his gratitude to his parents and to the Diocese of Springfield, where he served as a pastor and at the chancery for 28 years. "Leaving them is a great sadness and sacrifice in my heart. But I know that I take with me the very best of who they are, their love, their support and their prayers."
Raised on a farm in central Illinois, Bishop-designate Kemme's life also focused around St. Mary of the Annunciation Church where he was baptized, confirmed, received his first holy Communion, and where he celebrated his first Mass.
"My mother, when I told her yesterday on the way here that I was appointed to be bishop of Wichita -- after recovering, in her own unique way, she said, 'Oh, I've got to get my hair done now!'" He told his mother she had a bit of time before May 1 to get that done.
Bishop-designate Kemme said he had desired to become a priest from childhood.
"Nothing made me happier and makes me happier than serving in the various parishes to which I was assigned," he said. "Teaching in the grade schools, hearing confessions, baptizing babies, witnessing marriages, presiding at funerals -- all the things that parish priests do.
"It wasn't always easy, as our pastors and parish priests will tell you, but there was a deep and abiding sense of joy and satisfaction because I was doing what I was convinced God wanted me to do."
He said he would soon get to know the faithful of the diocese.
"For today, it is enough to acknowledge that now we are in this together. Beginning to write the next chapter the glorious hope-filled and exciting chapter in the history of the Diocese of Wichita," Bishop-designate Kemme said.
"And in that there is great joy," he continued, "the kind of joy Pope Francis has spoken to us about recently in his apostolic exhortation, 'It is your joy and mind to follow the Lord, but we do it together as brothers and sisters, and to bring others with us along this great journey of faith to help those who are often times left behind in our society, the poor little vulnerable and we all do it find a way to heaven.'"
He closed the news conference by saying that his journey and the those of the people of the Diocese of Wichita have intersected. "And that from now on we will journey together makes me very happy very happy indeed."