Kansas prelate served most of his vocation in Brazil
Scott City vocation, Bishop Hermes, dies
The Most Reverend Herbert J. Hermes, O.S.B., 84, bishop emeritus of Cristolandia, Goias, Brazil, and religious vocation from St. Joseph Parish, Scott City, Kansas, died Jan. 3, 2018 of complications from pneumonia at the General Hospital of Palmas, Tocantins, Brazil. The funeral Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Wellington Querioz of Cristalandia, and Abbot James Albers of St Benedict Abbey, Atchison, at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Paraiso do Tocantins. Burial was in the crypt of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cristalandia, Tocantins.
Herbert Hermes was born at Shallow Water, Kans., on May 25, 1933, the son of John and Mary Hilger Hermes. He was baptized in St. Joseph Church, June 5, 1933. He received his elementary and secondary training in Scott City. He was an honor student at Scott Community High School and valedictorian of the Class of 1951.
After two years in the preparatory seminary of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchinson, Kans., he entered the Benedictine novitiate on July 10, 1953. He professed his solemn vows on July 11, 1957. He received the major orders of subdeacon and deacon in Dec. 14, 1958, and Dec. 19, 1959, respectively.
The Rev. Herbert Hermes, O.S.B., was among seven Benedictine monks ordained to the priesthood in St. Benedict’s Abbey Church, on Ascension Thursday, May 26, 1960. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler of Kansas City in Kansas.
Father Hermes celebrated his first solemn Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Scott City on May 30, 1960. Father Herman Schulte served as the archpriest; Msgr. George Hussman, deacon; Father Peter Urban, sub-deacon; Father Arnold Tkacik, O.S.B., preached the sermon.
In 1962, he was assigned to St. Joseph Priory in Mineiros, Brazil, a foundation of St. Benedict’s Abbey. He was appointed prior of the foundation in 1985.
Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of the territorial prelature of Christlandia in 1990. The prelature covers 27,000 square miles. At the time of his appointment there were 245,000 inhabitants of which 80 to 90 percent considered themselves Catholics. There were only 12 priests serving the region.
Bishop Mathias Schmidt, O.S.B., of Barbosa, Brazil, ordained Bishop Hermes to the episcopacy at St. Benedict’s Abby on Sept. 2, 1990. He was assisted by Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker of Kansas City, and retired Bishop Frederick W. Freking of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Prior to his appointment as bishop, Father Hermes had served as pastor of several parishes and mission churches in the Mineiros region of the Jatai Diocese.
During the 19 years of his Episcopal duties, Bishop Herbert ordained 16 diocesan priests, created seven parish and subdivided the prelacy into five pastoral regions. He welcomed several religious congregations of men and women religious to minister in the prelature.
Bishop Hermes was active in many organizations promoting the human, social, political and economic rights of indigenous and poor persons, who were often exploited and victimized by powerful alliances of corrupt government and business. He exposed the practice of modern slavery and worked to rescue the enslaved.
His opposition to acts such as these brought threats to his life.
In 1994, he created the Center of Human Rights of Cristalandia and established offshots called Human Rights Nucleos. He received the award, Honorary Citizen of the State of Tocinchins, from the State Congress, on Nov. 11, 2001. In 2002, he received national recognition as a Distinguished Personality in Human Rights.
Bishop Hermes inspired a cousin and a nephew as they sought their own vocations in the priesthood. He ordained Father Michael Hermes, a diocesan priest, and now pastor at St. Paul Parish in Olathe, and Father Alphonsus Hermes, a Norbertine priest of St. Michaels’s Abbey in Silverado, Calif.
Bishop Hermes retired on Feb. 25, 2009, and continued to reside in Brazil. He returned to St. Joseph Church in Scott City on June 19, 2010 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving. He described his priestly ordination 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.”
He is survived by his twin brother Norbert of Salina; a sister, Lucilla Herman in Oklahoma; nephews and nieces; and his brother monks and priests at St. Benedict’s Abby and the Prelacy of Cristalandia.
(Contributing to this article were Joe Bollig of the Leaven, and Herbert Hermes, columnist for the Register in Salina.)