Fr. Conrad L. Kimbrough – Part II Episcopalian

In 12 Converts on 2015/07/03 at 12:00 AM

Just shortly before I became a Catholic, a man came to Steven’s Point, to speak at a dinner meeting.  I don’t remember how I happened to get in on it because it was certainly a Catholic gathering.   After dinner I went up and talked with the man who was there, and I was astounded about how much he knew about the Episcopal Church.   And then I went to a Mass celebrated by that man.  I got way up in the bleachers — it was in a high school gymnasium, because there was no church big enough to hold the crowds.  I was not able to receive communion, of course, so I just got out of everyone’s way and sat in the top bleacher.  Then as the procession went by, I heard a voice say “Father Kimbrough,  come down”.  So I lept over the bleachers, coming all the way down to the floor.  And, there I was introduced to the man who was to be, within a year, Pope John Paul II.  I thought all the way down, what do I do.  What do I say to this man and without ever coming to a decision, when I reached the bottom of the floor, I genuflected and kissed his ring.  I knew that was not being done any more, but it was such an overwhelming thing, that I just did it.  Finally, coming to a conclusion about what to do.  It was from that time on I knew my decision was made.  I had to become a Catholic.  I also at the same time met the bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Bishop Fredrick Frecking.  He did say to me: “I can’t promise that you will become a Priest.”  I said:  “I don’t expect you to promise me anything.  I just have to be a Catholic.”  So he invited me over to his residence, and he received me into the church and then had a reception and dinner, with several priests.  He was most kind. And he asked me if I could report to the seminary in three weeks.  Now generally speaking it takes several years of being a Catholic before one can go to a seminary    But because my mother was ill, the Bishop wanted me to go home to  see her and then come back and report to the seminary.  So, three weeks after becoming a Catholic, I was a seminarian in the Catholic Church.  I went to the seminary of the Sacred Heart, near Milwaukee.

I was there three months and then I was told that I was through.    So I returned to N.C.  There were several options, I could have stayed in Wisconsin.  But that plan was cut short by my Episcopal Bishop, who called the Catholic Bishop of Green Bay and told him to call the Catholic Bishop of La Crosse  and tell him “to get rid of me.”  So in order not to stir up trouble,  he just offered me money to go to N.C. to talk with both bishops in North Carolina.  I really had no interest in being in the diocese of Raleigh, so I went to Charlotte. I remember the afternoon, I reported there.  My Bishop had said he would get in touch with the Bishop in Charlotte. But when I showed up at the Bishops door he said, “Who are you?”  I told him and explained things, and he said:  “Come back on Friday”. And that was on a Wednesday, so I came back on Friday. He said I am making you an ‘assistant’ at St Ann’s.  I don’t think I ever did know what I was assistant of, I was just an assistant.

I continued to be called Father Kimbrough.  It was very strange when the announcement came out that Father Kimbough will be ordained Deacon next Saturday.

I was ordained by Bishop Begley, at St. Anne’s church. He wanted to keep it quiet as instructions were from Rome. He said I will ordain you in the Convent chapel, the Sisters’ Chapel there  at St. Ann’s church.  I thought that was fine with me, but during the prostration in the Litany, my feet would be out in the hall because the chapel was so small.  Well, it turned out that Father Anthony and the Bishop both realized that it would not work to have the ordination there,  so it was in the main church.  I was astounded by the number of people that came to the Ordination.  The first ordination was to the Deaconate and more astounding was the Ordination to the Priesthood.   I found out later that when I prostrated in front of the Altar, during the singing of the litany, many of my Baptist relatives thought that I had fainted and they wondered why nothing was being done about it. We got on through the ordination.

One of the Priests said to me:  “You certainly were calm during the ordination, and I said: “Certainly,  I have been through this four times — so I guess I should be calm”.

The day I was ordained,  I was given an appointment to Lenoir N.C.  I fell in with a group of clergy who met next door at the United Church of Christ, and thoroughly enjoyed their company.   We met every Wednesday and had a paper given or talked about problems and then went to lunch together.   I really loved Lenoir and hated to leave, when the time came, for my appointment to Lincolnton, N.C.

I was the only one of the clergy in Lenoir that was really happy in the town. They all wanted to leave, but, I would have been content to stay there the rest of my life, at the beautiful  St Francis of Asissi Church.  But in due time,  I was sent to Lincolnton.   I loved Lincolnton because of the great family spirit in the parish. I was there for not quite two years,  actually, when I was sent to Hendersonville, N.C.   I enjoyed Hendersonville.  Every time I left a parish, it was in real pain.  I kept being transferred.  Then to St. Benedict’s Greensboro for eight years where nine young men became priests and two young women became nuns.  I was at St. Dorothy’s in Denver, N.C. for about four years.

Finally, I came to my retirement.   I became a Catholic when I was almost 50 years old, so I had served  about 25 years as a Catholic Priest.

In retirement I returned to Salisbury to my family home.



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