Marriage & Holy Orders

50 years ago today, a young couple got married at Saint Patrick Church, Cedar Falls. 

This afternoon, that couple stood before me and renewed their vows.  The Assembly stood, extended their hands, and prayed God’s continued blessing upon them.

In 40 years, marriage preparation and enrichment were important parts of  my ministry.  For me, indeed for the whole Church, the witness of love and fidelity, of life and suffering, of affirmation and support provided to married couples has been, and continues to be an important inspiration for me.  It continues to be an invitation and challenge for me to be faithful and loving, life giving, affirmative and supportive to those to whom I minister.

To Sally and John,  and to the thousand of couples I have had the privilege of knowing, I thank you for the gift you have been, and are now, especially at this point in my life/death process.  You have helped me be a better Christian, and a faithful pastor, than I could ever have been on my own.  The grace of your sacrament has profoundly transformed me. 

The transition into the final stages of my life has been much easier than I had hoped for or even imagined.  Today  part of the explanation of  why  was revealed to me

Two years ago, I was installed as pastor here at Saint Patrick.   The installation rite our diocese uses parallels the marriage ritual.  I did not come to “take possession of my parish” (as if I owned it).  Rather, the bishop through his vicar presented me.  The lay leadership, in the name of the entire parish accepted me as their servant leader.  It truly is “my” parish, just as every other parishioner says “Saint Patrick is my parish.”  We belong to each other.  We committed ourselves to work together in a loving and supportive relationship.

Now that I am dying, and my relationships are changing, this parish has responded in ways which amaze, but do not surprise me.  Somehow, in their hearts two years ago, they accepted me as their pastor “in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”   A young couple cannot begin to imagine what the next 50 years will bring.  Nor could we , two short years ago, imagine what life and death  would lay ahead of us. 

In 40 years experience as priest, I have seen this so often.  Catholics love their priests.  Whether this pastor was outstanding, a holy and a pastoral man, or one who has struggled, or has made, sometimes painful mistakes in ministry, by-and-large they have loved their pastor “for better or worse, in good times and in bad.”

I know that my experience of the last 3 months would be the same if I were still at Saints Peter and Paul (Gilbert),  Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ames), Saint John the Baptist (Peosta) or All Saints (Cedar Rapids).  Varied as these parishes are, they all have that same loving commitment to their priests.  For this I stand in awe before God and His people.

Marriage & Holy Orders – two very different sacraments.  Yet, in some ways, so similar, so parallel.  But that is no surprise.  For as with all sacraments, they are simply the manifestation of God’s presence.  And God is love, and all who abide in God, abide in love.

Rev. Everett Hemann


Celebrating 40 years of ordained ministry

Wow!     I have not posted since May 21, my 40th anniversary.   I am not a faithful logger.  But I knew that when I started out here.    I find little to help me grow in the blogs that I have briefly read.  It is difficult to motivate myself to write.

Since last writing, I have had two relatively good months physically.   I have had the opportunity to celebrate 40th anniversaries both at Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ames) and Saint Patrick (Cedar Falls).  Both were marvelous, life-giving and energy providing opportunities for me to greet many that I have not seen for years, especially at STA.   I appreciate the efforts so many made to attend, especially those who came from a distance.  If you want to check out some photos, click on this link:

I attended a 3 day family reunion (my siblings and in-laws).   I also attend the gathering of the ordination class of 1971 for the state of Iowa.   This past Sunday about half of my high school graduation class came to Cedar Falls for Mass, brunch and an afternoon of visiting.

For my 25th, I reflected on my experience of priestly ministry.  As Providence would have it, for my 40th, the tables were turned and people wrote me and told me of their experience of me as a priest.  This has been very affirming, and somewhat enlightening to me.   I share their summarized reflections with you.  I do so as an invitation for YOU, to look at your life of discipleship and examine what observations others might make about you.

The most frequently mentioned quality was “JOY”.   I have been experienced as a person of joy and happiness, especially in the Liturgy.  People associate this experience with their faith in a God who cares and loves them, even in their weakness.  This quality has provided many with hope in difficult times, and helped them to address difficult issues.  My optimism, rooted in my own relationship with a compassionate and loving God, has served many in growing in their own faith.  I have long been aware of my almost Pollyannaish optimism, but was not aware of the impact it had in the lives of others.

“YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING” was the next most frequently mentioned characteristic.  Many, especially younger people, wrote it “you are the first priest I knew who was human”.   If a priest is to be the face/hands/heart of the Lord, in you I first experience the humanity of Jesus.   This prompted many to seek to more like Christ – a human person with emotions, and a capacity to love and be hurt.   Who would have known, that simply by being myself; by being transparent, allowing others to know me as a person, I would, as a priest, touch so deeply the lives of others.

The third observation did not surprise me, other than it was third and not first!   “LOVE of LITURGY” Liturgy has been the most important ministry in my priesthood, and I love celebrating and am deeply nourished spiritually by the liturgy.  Again, my joy and love of liturgy helps others to entire more into the prayer life of the Church and to help them to grow spiritually.

Another frequently mentioned characteristic is that people experienced me as accepting, non-judgmental.  Last Sunday we had the parable about “the weeds and the wheat”.   One family told me that they liked my preaching because they thought I remained faithful to the scriptures and to the tradition of the Church without condemning parishioners.  Rather, “you seem to invite us to conversion, to open ourselves to God’s mercy and become better.”

We live in a culture where people expect “performance reviews”.    I thank all of you, who wrote and provided the ultimate performance review of my ministry.  Now pray with me, that in time of my life, I remain faithful to our gospel values, our commitment to love and serving, and especially our relationship with a God who has been so incredibly gracious to us.

Rev. Everett Hemann

May 21, 1971

Yesterday was my 40th anniversary of ordination. Instead of attending an anniversary party in Chicago, i spent most of the day in the hospital. Someone sent me the letter I had sent out 15 years ago. They were struck by my reflections then….and my expeirences now. I am too. The Holy Spirit guides and directs our lives preparing us for what lies ahead.

May 21 1971 – May 21 1996

Dear Friends,

Twenty-five years passes quickly when
you are having fun. And these have been fun
filled, inspirational years.

Last year, I had the opportunity of a
three month sabbatical. It afforded me time
to reflect on my years of ministry. They have
been incredibly positive, grace-filled years.
There have been so many wonderful people whose
lives I have been allowed to touch, that have
in fact, shaped and formed me. These
experiences have been transformational for me.
They have been redemptive. For them, for YOU,
I am thankful.

As I think of where God has been most
present to me, has most touched my life during
these years of ministry, it has been in the
death of teenagers. At first hearing, that
may seem ironic. But it was in the moments of
confusion and pain, of hurt and anger, when
there was nothing I could do but be present as
priest. Then I experienced what St. Paul
describes: “I boast most gladly of my
weaknesses…for the sake of Christ; for when
I am weak, then I am strong.”

In so many other “deaths” that I have
had the opportunity to share, I have known the
presence of God. I am reminded what a
privilege and honor it is to be invited into
the lives of so many wonderful people. For
you, who have invited me to walk with you,
thank you.

So, at the end of twenty five years, I
give thanks for having the opportunity to
rejoice and celebrate with many. But most
especially, I am thankful to have been allowed
to share in suffering and sorrow. For it is
in death that we are reborn to eternal life.

For remembering with me God’s
incredible gift of love, for being sacrament
of the Divine love for me, I bless you, thank
you and remember you in prayer.

Twenty-five years ago, Archbishop Byrne
prayed over me saying: May God who has begun
the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.
Now I ask you to remember me in prayer that
these next 25 years will bring those words to

Blessed be the Lord

Previously I mentioned that I have shed many tears in the last month, but they had all been tears of joy.    Allow me to explain.

The classic stages of dying are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.   Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her innovative study On Death and Dying, makes the point that not everyone experiences all five stages, and while the order above is most common, it is not the only sequence of experience.

When I initially received the news from a young ER doc at Mercy in Cedar Rapids, I was filled with sadness.  I reflected on all the wonderful experiences of my life, and realized that they would come to an end.  How could I best tell  these people who had loved me and whom I love still.

I do not think I ever had a moment of denial, or doubt.  This was the sure and certain reality (which ALL of us face) that I had preached for 40 years.  Even in my dying, I would have the opportunity to share once again, on a much deeper level, the grace of love.

And so I had this rush of wonderful memories of family, of friends, of colleagues, of moments of God’s grace in ministry.  It was perhaps the first time that I acknowledged that God had over abundantly blest me in life.  Far more than I ever deserved.  Only to be once again, blest in dying itself.

As I recalled these super abundant graces of God, I wept.  As you responded by writing and reminding me to recall  some of our experiences, I wept even more.  Tears of great joy as you invited me to reflect on my role in your life as brother, uncle, friend, priest, mentor and colleague. 

Thank you for what you have been, and especially for what you are now.

Blessed be the Lord, the giver of all good gifts.

Rev. Everett Hemann

A Celebration of Life

40 years as a priest

May 21, 1971 I was ordained a priest.   There has been 40  very good years.   

I am putting together a collection of pictures from these 40 years.   If you have a couple of good quality photos,  please email them to me.   I can only use .JPG files.   Personal, formal, buildings, etc.   I desire to relive those great years.  

Thank you.

Rev. Ev Hemann

Medically – what I know

About a month ago, I went to the Emergency Room with what I feared might be a kidney stone.  A CAT scan indicated tumors and lesions in my pancreas.  That began a long journey of attempting to identify the kind of growth, etc.   Today it is confirmed as  malignant cancer, already metastasized to liver, lungs and bone.  Pancreatic cancer at this stage, has no cure, and treatment options are  limited and not very effective.  

I decided to begin chemotherapy two weeks ago.  I reacted to one of the drugs and found myself in cardiac unit for 30 hours.  This week, I slightly revised the treatment and will have my second chemotherapy next Monday.

I informed my seven siblings and  nieces and nephews two weeks ago.   I selected NOT to tell the parish and friends until after Easter.  I made that choice for two reasons:  1)  Why spoil your Easter, and,  2)  It would allow me to celebrate Holy Week with  my people, instead of it being about me.  It turned out to be the right choice.  Holy Week and Easter were about US celebrating the Paschal Mystery, not me. 

 I am blessed with a compassionate and knowledgeable oncologist.  A  good friend is also an oncologist (retired from University of Iowa) and has viewed my records and is in agreement and supportive of my decisions. 

I also have three physicians in my family who are helpful.  I’m surrounded by a good, competent medical “team”.    

Of its very nature, my journey is one-day-at- -a- time, sometimes hour-by-hour.  I hope to continue to minister here in a limited capacity.  I told Archbishop Hanus he needs to appoint a pastor here soon.  I hope to  continue serving in the parish  through mid-summer/August.  Ultimately, I’m not in control of the calendar.  Any plans are subject to immediate change. 

Fr. Ev Hemann