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Diocese mourns loss of
Father Henry Hildebrandt

Parishioners past and present, friends, and family were in shock at the news that Father Henry Hildebrandt, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Ness City, and St. Aloysius Parish, Ransom, succumbed to a heart attack March 26.

    He was 61 years old.

    Henry Hildebrandt was born March 26, 1955 in Grove City, Pa., the son of Henry Ford Hildebrandt, Sr., and Dolores Dorothy Buehler. Before studying for the priesthood, he served as pastoral minister at Sacred Heart Parish, Pratt (1976 to 1983). He took seminary studies at the University of Dallas (Holy Trinity Seminary) in Irving, Texas, and Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio.

    He was ordained to the priesthood on June 20, 1987, by Bishop Stanley G. Schlarman at Sacred Heart Church, Pratt. He served as an associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima, Great Bend (1987-1990), before receiving his first pastorate at St. Anthony of Padua, Liberal (1990 – 2001).

    During this assignment he also served in the following diocesan positions: Director of Vocations and Director of Seminarians; Director of Pastoral Ministry Formation and the ITV Network; and Chair of the Building Commission. His pastoral assignments following his tenure at Liberal included: St. Lawrence, Jetmore, with St. Anthony, Hanston (2001 – 2004), with additional responsibility for St. John the Baptist, Spearville (2003 – 2004). He had served as pastor of the parishes at Ness City and Ransom since July 1, 2004. He was a strong advocate of Catholic education and made known his desire for assignments in parishes with schools.

    Father Henry received a Papal mandate by Pope Francis in 2016 designating him a Missionary of Mercy during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this capacity he was to be a visible symbol of the Father’s mercy and a living sign of the Father’s loving kindness.

    “The word for ‘mercy’ in Latin means more than ‘mercy’,” Father Hildebrandt told the Catholic recently, following his trip to Rome to receive the mandate from Pope Francis. “It’s translated as loving kindness. So, it’s not just about forgiveness; it’s every aspect of the Father’s loving kindness for His creation, the ultimate dream the Father has in creating us, which is to surround himself for all eternity by a race of beings that are images of His love….

    “How can we live on a planet with people who are poor and who are struggling in a multitude of ways, and not reach out to them somehow? How can we live in a world where people are fleeing war, and not try to do something for them? If we have experienced the love of our Father, how can we not share it?

    “The real goal is that every baptized Catholic be a missionary of mercy, sharing the love and goodness of God with every person they meet.”

    A parish rosary will be held Thursday, March 31. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, April 1, with the Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Dodge City, presiding. All are being held in Sacred Heart Church, Ness City. Burial took place the Sacred Heart Cemetery.

    Father Henry is survived by several aunts and numerous cousins in the western Pennsylvania and Washington DC areas.

    Memories and words of support may be written in the guest book at www.fitzgeraldfuneral.com.

    Memorial contributions in the name of Father Hildebrandt can be made to the Dechant Foundation and Sacred Heart School, Ness City, in care of Fitzgerald Funeral Home, Ness City, Kansas.

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