OSB, served for 20 years as
bishop in Brazil
Kansas native son celebrates
anniversary in Scott City
SCOTT CITY -- Kansas native son Bishop Herbert Hermes, OSB, celebrated his 50th year of priestly ordination – and 20 years a bishop -- with the help of the parishioners of St. Joseph Parish in Scott City.
Until his retirement in 2009, Bishop Hermes, a native of Shallow Water -- a small, unincorporated community in Scott County -- served as the Bishop of Cristalândia, Tocantins, Brazil, after being appointed to the office in 1990. He began his ministry in Brazil in 1962.
The June 19 anniversary celebration came on the heels of a month-long visit to locations in Colorado, Kansas and Montana. He will return to Brazil July 13 after visiting more sites in Kansas as well as the town of Broken Arrow, Okla.
Bishop Hermes was born May 25, 1933; he was ordained a priest of the Order of St. Benedict on May 26, 1960, and was ordained bishop on Sept. 2, 1990.
In front of Scott City parishioners – including many family and friends – the bishop began his homily with a biology lesson.
“Do you know that out of half a billion male sperm cells, only one fertilizes the female egg cell to produce a human embryo?” he asked. “Yes, only one in half a billion! Each person is unique, unrepeatable! Each person is one out of half a billion!
“It’s mind-blowing to know how many genes and chromosomes then are involved in producing the individual, unrepeatable embryo with it’s unique DNA that makes each of the billions of human beings who have existed, now exist and will exist, with their different, distinct, one-and-only personal characteristics created by an infinitely wise and loving God!”
The bishop’s work in Brazil has not been without risk. As just one example, when Japanese and Brazilian developers planned to clear a forest for soybean production, claiming the area as state property, it meant first clearing the property of more than 100 families who had lived on and cultivated the land for more than 100 years.
Bishopo Hermes’ opposition to acts such as these brought threats to his life.
In his 20 years as bishop in Brazil, he was responsible for managing a budget for a poverty-stricken region the size of Iowa. And yet, at his anniversary celebration, his homily focused on offering thanks.
The bishop offered thanks for his “education in good public schools here in Scott City and, following graduation from high school, the blessing of entering St. Benedict’s College and later St. Benedict’s Abbey as a monk, the special grace of professing religious vows, of studying philosophy and theology, with the loving encouragement, even financial support and, above all, prayers of my family and other relatives, of many of you -- both those of you here today and those who have gone to their heavenly reward.”
He described his priestly ordination, 50 years ago May 26, as the “blessing of blessings, grace of graces.”
His ordination, he said, offered to him the “sublime gift of Jesus using my throat, tongue and lips to transform bread and wine into His Body and Blood and to give the blessing of absolution for the forgiveness of sins. Likewise the grace of anointing the elderly, the sick, the dying, of baptizing and of uniting couples in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, of preaching the Good News.
“And in 1962 – 48 years ago -- choosing me among many volunteers for our missionary foundation in Brazil, where I have served ever since.
“On top of this, 20 years ago, anointing me to the fullness of the priesthood as bishop of Cristalândia, Tocantins, Brazil,” he said. “There are about 400,000 Catholic priests in the world, but less than 2 percent are chosen to be bishops – another sign of God’s special vocation and mission for me! And, among priests, not many are fortunate enough to complete 50 years of faithful service!
“…Please continue to pray for me that I may always correspond evermore fully to these countless graces and blessings that God has bestowed on me and BE a concrete expression of his infinite and special love for each and every one of us! Amen!”