Bishop Kemme receives honorary degree, shares message to inspire leadership

May 13, 2021

At Newman University’s commencement May 7, Wichita Diocese Bishop Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme received Newman University’s degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. He received this honor for his dedicated years of service and leadership, as well as his remarkable representation of the university’s Culture of Service core value.

Nearly every year, Newman awards an honorary degree to notable and accomplished members of the extended Newman community whose life and work reflect exemplary dedication to one of the university’s four core values which, in addition to Culture of Service, include Catholic Identity, Academic Excellence and Global Perspective.

Bishop Kemme “photobombs” Newman graduating students prior to the start of the 3 p.m. commencement ceremony.

In the citation read by Father Joseph Gile, dean of Newman’s School of Catholic Studies and associate professor of theology, Bishop Kemme was recognized for the following:

In his acceptance speech, Bishop Kemme shared a message to inspire Newman graduates to act as leaders wherever their life may take them.

“Human beings need and deserve good leaders, who lead for the good of others,” he said. “And when that happens, as we have seen in many examples, human society flourishes and people realize their own potential. Those who are blessed with good leaders are themselves inspired to take up the burden and challenges of leadership. And this is what I most want to request of each of you: to see yourselves as leaders, and to strive to be good, authentic and heroic leaders so that our human society in this day and time – whether in the world or in our country, in the state or on more local levels – will flourish. I also invite that from you in our church or wherever you are drawn to find spiritual sustenance in your life.”

Reflecting on Pope Francis’s message of hope during the pandemic, Bishop Kemme continued, “Good leaders open their eyes to the realities that are directly in front of them. Good leaders do not shield the eyes or their bodies or their minds or their heart to that which is true, real and undeniable.”

Throughout his speech, Bishop Kemme continued to draw on the words of Pope Francis to share with graduates the important elements of every leader: to see, to discern and choose, and to act.

“I pray that from my simple words today, which come really from Pope Francis, you will see yourselves as those authentic, humble and heroic leaders we need you to be. I see by discerning and choosing and by acting. Pope Francis invites us in his meditation to dream. I invite you to commence.”

“We proudly honor you today because of your leadership as bishop of the Catholic Church in south-central Kansas and for your support and dedication to Newman University and its many students and alumni. Bishop Carl Kemme, you have served God and the people of His Church for nearly 35 years, first as a priest and now as a bishop. You have a profound impact on your fellow clergy, the priests you lead in the Wichita diocese, the lay members of your flock and those who are impacted by the many ministries of the local Church.”

Journey to priesthood

Bishop Kemme grew up on a small family farm in rural Shumway, Illinois, where he attended the Church of the Annunciation Parish. He entered the diocesan seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Illinois, in 1978, and then graduated from Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Divinity degree.

Bishop Kemme was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Springfield in 1986. His appointment as the 11th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, was announced in February 2014 by Pope Francis. Bishop Kemme was ordained to the fullness of the priesthood in May 2014 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme celebrated Newman’s 2021 Baccalaureate Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 6.

Bishop Kemme currently serves on the Newman University Board of Trustees, which provides support and direction for the university’s future success in educating graduates who are empowered to transform society. He also supported the creation of the School of Catholic Studies by providing a Newman undergraduate education to diocesan seminarians in the St. Joseph House of Formation.

As Father Gile read in the citation, Bishop Kemme’s time in priesthood has set an inspiring example.

“You hold Catholic social teaching as a model for providing for our good neighbor and encouraging Newman University and the greater Wichita diocese community to treat all with dignity and respect,” Gile said. “You want all to follow the example of Jesus to love their neighbor and justly serve and support those who are poor and disadvantaged.”