Bishop Gilmore honored for 20 years of episcopal ministry
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
Anyone who has been offered that big promotion only to face a sudden realization that you’re not quite sure it’s a step you feel prepared to take, can begin to understand how then-Msgr. Ronald M. Gilmore felt the day he learned he was to become bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.
“The days leading up to that ordination were hard days for me physically and emotionally,” he told friends gathered at St. Andrew Parish Center in Wright to celebrate his 20th anniversary as a bishop.
“I remember the night before, sleep was very fitful. The next morning, I was really feeling miserable. I was out of sorts. My stomach was churning. I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it through the ceremony.
“So, I prayed for the Lord to help me get through it,” he said.
One of Bishop Gilmore’s redeeming characteristics has been his blunt honesty about his own insecurities. When housed amid his deep faith, these admissions became a saving grace for the multitude of souls who’ve struggled with their own search for faith amid struggles — a multitude of people who found strength from the bishop’s words and example.
Bishop Emeritus Gilmore was honored July 16 by the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, several priests and Religious of the diocese, and numerous friends, at a dinner reception at St. Andrew Church in Wright. The evening began with vespers, followed by a reception and dinner hosted by the St. Andrew Altar Society, Wright Council of the Knights of Columbus, and the St. Andrew Vocations Commission.
After the roast beef dinner, Bishop Gilmore drew howls of laughter as he recalled the moments leading up to his ordination:
“I had to take the oath that we bishops have to take,” he told those gathered. “The nuncio had about a 42-page prayer in Latin, and I had to read through this.
“I knew this about the nuncio: he had an aversion to air-conditioning. When he told me that I was selected to be the bishop of Dodge City, he was in a non-air-conditioned room at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita.”
It was a hot day to begin with, the bishop said. Combined with his tattered nerves and lack of sleep, the lengthy reading became a bit like a verbal obstacle course.
“I went through this oath, reading it word for word in Latin, and I’m dripping on the paper,” the bishop said to laughter.
At his table at the parish center in Wright sat Father Jack Maes, who smiled and nodded at the memory, the priest having been in the room those two decades ago when the future Bishop Gilmore read the long document.
“It was a difficult time leading up to the ordination,” Bishop Gilmore said. “During the ordination, though, about half-way through, we reached the point of the laying-on of hands, and … I can’t say that I was aware of anything happening. Nothing was perceptible to me.
“But somehow, in some way, without my being aware of it, I was suddenly strengthened. All the rest of that melted away.”
The soft-spoken Bishop Gilmore led the diocese in the construction of a new cathedral. Through his many deanery meetings and gatherings at churches throughout the diocese, he sought to “bring people into the family of the diocese. It was a great thing for me to meet the people in that way.
“I told people I wasn’t interested in their money, that I was interested in their souls. And the priests always pushed back and said, ‘Bishop, be high-minded on your own time! We’re trying to pay a few bills here!’” he said to more laughter.
“Of course, that’s true. I was interested in their souls, although I would tell them that I cannot have your souls if you hoard your money!”
A year or so after Bishop Gilmore retired, he met Jacqueline Loh, founder of “Grace that Reigns Society,” which presents retreats designed to “renew your sense of wonder in your love and relationship with Jesus.” The two began touring the country and Canada giving retreats. Their most recent retreat was in Hugoton to a nearly filled church.
“I want to thank Bishop Brungardt for welcoming Grace that Reigns into the diocese and for letting us be a part of the mission of the diocese,” Bishop Gilmore said.
Words said upon Bishop Gilmore’s 2010 retirement stand just as true today: “I can never thank God enough for these Dodge City years,” he said. “And they are not yet ended. And other surprises are yet to come.”