Diocese mourns death of Bishop Gerber, third bishop of Dodge City

The Most Reverend Eugene J. Gerber, bishop emeritus of Wichita, died Sept. 29. He was 87. Bishop Gerber was the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Wichita (1983 to 2001), and third bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City (1976 – 1983).

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Wichita Oct. 9. Bishop Carl Kemme presided. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Bishop John B. Brungardt and Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore of Dodge City, and Bishop Gerald Vincke of Salina were among the concelebrating bishops. Bishop Gilmore was the homilist at the vigil; Bishop Kemme was the homilist for the funeral. Interment was at Ascension Cemetery in Wichita.

Eugene Gerber was born April 30, 1931 at a hospital in Kingman, the son of Cornelius J. and Lena (Tiesmeyer) Gerber, members of St. Louis Parish, Waterloo. He took his college studies at Wichita State University and Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo. He completed philosophy and theology studies at St. Thomas Seminary, Denver. There he received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Religious Education and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Mark K. Carroll at St. Patrick Church, Kingman on May 19, 1959. He served as assistant pastor at St. Anne and Church of the Magdalen parishes in Wichita before being named vice chancellor in 1961.

Father Gerber taught religion at Mt. Carmel Academy from 1961 to 1963 when he was named an assistant at Holy Savior Parish in Wichita. He returned to the Chancery in 1963 as vice chancellor.

The following year he was named an assistant to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Wichita, and as assistant to Bishop David M. Maloney. Father Gerber was again named vice chancellor in 1965.

He served as business manager for the Catholic Advance beginning in 1967 and was named an assistant at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception the next year.

In 1973 Father Gerber was named pastor of Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita. He was named chancellor in 1975, while continuing as pastor of Blessed Sacrament.

Several months after his appointment as chancellor in 1975, Bishop Maloney sent him to Rome for post-graduate studies in theology and scripture at the St. Thomas Pontifical University where he earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.

In June of 1976, while continuing as chancellor, he was appointed vicar for religious education. From 1969 to 1976, he served on the governing board of Hoy Family Center for the mentally challenged and from 1970 to 1976; he was moderator of the diocesan Cursillo Movement.

He was 45 years of age when he was appointed to serve as the third bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City. Bishop Gerber was ordained to the episcopacy Dec. 14, 1976, by Bishop David Maloney at St. Mary Cathedral, Wichita. Assisting in the ordination were Bishop Marion F. Forst, second bishop of Dodge City, and Bishop Richard Hanifen, auxiliary bishop of Denver. Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate, and Cardinal John Carberry, archbishop of St. Louis, presided at the ordination

The following day, installation ceremonies were held in the Civic Center in Dodge City. The installing prelates were Archbishop Jadot and the Most Reverend Ignatius J. Strecker, archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas. Clergy, religious, and laity made up the more than 1,600 persons in attendance.

Bishop Gerber was the first native of Kansas to lead the Dodge City diocese. Under Bishop Gerber’s leadership the ministries continued to grow with the establishment of the Apostolate with Disabled Persons, the Vicariate for Spanish-Speaking, Permanent Diaconate, Aging Ministry, Rural Life Program, RENEW, Vocations Program, Evangelization and the Peace and Justice Office.

On Nov. 23, 1982, after only six years in Dodge City, Bishop Gerber was appointed to lead the Diocese of Wichita. He was installed Feb. 9, 1983, at Century II in Wichita.

Bishop Gerber would serve in his home diocese for nearly 20 years. He resigned at the age of 70 in 2001. The Lord’s Diner, a Wichita food ministry that has served 5 million meals to the poor; the Spiritual Life Center, a retreat and conference facility in Bel Aire; and the Bishop Gerber Science Center at Newman University now stand as living memorials to his life and ministry.

(Additional information on Bishop Gerber’s funeral and remembrances will appear in the next issue of the Catholic.)