April 25, 2016
When Marvin Klemmer was in the first grade, Msgr. Galowitsch, the Pastor of St. Mary's in New England, came into his classroom and asked the girls if they were going to be religious sisters, and the boys if they were going to be priests.
This was a significant moment in Fr. Marvin's life, and perhaps one that nourished the little “seed” of his priestly vocation.
“All of the girls raised their hands, and so did all of the boys,” Fr. Klemmer says. “When I was raising my hand, I thought, 'I'll show them!' And I did!”
Over the years, young Marvin continued to “show them” with his desire to fulfill the sacred will of God in his life.
“Also when I was young, a nun told me to pray three Hail Mary's each night that I would do what God wanted me to do with my life,” he says. “I never once prayed to become a priest, not even the night before my ordination, I just prayed that I would fulfill whatever God's dream was for me. There are so many possibilities out there, young people need to just pray to do what God wants them to do with their lives.”
On May 29, 1966, Marvin was ordained at St. Mary's Parish in Bismarck. Since his ordination 50 years ago, he has worn many great “hats” for our diocese, such as that of chancellor, vocations director, vicar general, and vicar for priests. He served as assistant pastor at St. Patrick's in Dickinson and Christ the King in Mandan. He was also the pastor of St. Leo's in Minot for eight years as well as 23 years at Ascension in Bismarck.
“I loved all of the offices I have held as a priest, and enjoyed whatever I was doing, because I was glad to serve the Church,” he says. “I am grateful to God for allowing me to become a priest. I wasn't doing God a favor by being a priest. He called me and I responded. He was doing me a favor in allowing me to be a priest.”
In addition to being able to offer the sacraments to God's people, Fr. Klemmer has savored the chance to build relationships with the people in our diocese.
“I really liked being in the Diocese of Bismarck and I know the people well,” he says. “Just being a part of people's lives is a very special thing. As a priest, you are automatically accepted by people, and you always have a key to become part of their lives. They put faith in you more readily than in someone else. What a blessing to be so easily accepted by them!”
Fr. Klemmer cherishes many memories of his priesthood, but a few of them stand out in a particular way.
“One of the most special moments of my ministry was when I offered the funeral Mass for my Mom and Dad,” he remarks. “They gave me life, and to be able to offer them back to God was a great privilege. Also, being able to give the Eucharist to others has allowed me to share meaningful moments in people's lives. I have enjoyed marrying couples as well, and giving the grieving hope during funerals.”
Over the years, Fr. Klemmer has been able to take time for sabbaticals in both Rome and in Jerusalem.
“I loved my sabbatical in Jerusalem. I was able to walk where Jesus walked. I spent a whole night in prayer in the Holy Sepulchre—that was true prayer. In Spain, I also did the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, where St. James the Apostle walked and did missionary work.
One of the reasons I did the Camino was to ask God to show me what he wants me to do during retirement, and to give thanks to him for being so good to me. I bet I gave thanks to God about a billion times as I did it! He has blessed me so many times. I came from a very poor family, and I look back and thank him for where I am in life now.”
Advice for others
When asked what sort of advice he would give to young men who are discerning the priesthood, Fr. Klemmer responds, “Those who are thinking about becoming priests should just pray daily that they do what God wants them to do—that is where they will be happiest in life. God will accept us if we do other things, but if we do His perfect will, we will be the best version of ourselves.”
And when asked what encouragement he would give his fellow priests, he explains, “Those who are priests must remember that it is such a privilege to be able to serve God and to think about how God is allowing me to be a priest for Him. When you go to a parish council meeting or marry a couple, you think about what an honor it is. It isn't all about me. It is about helping others. You don't think of yourself.”
Interestingly, now that Fr. Klemmer, 76, is retired, he is discovering the authentic joy behind his priesthood all the more.
“These days, I serve as a hop-around priest, offering Mass wherever I am needed,” he says. “I feel I am doing what I was ordained to do—just be a priest and offer Mass. I am really enjoying it and I highly recommend it!”
Each year, the bishop celebrates with the Jubilarian priests who mark significant milestones in the priesthood. Bishop Kagan will be celebrating with Fr. Klemmer and three other diocesan priests—Fr. Joseph Chipson (40), Fr. Kenneth Phillips (25), and Fr. Glen Michael Millard (10)— on Wednesday, April 27 at 3 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Bismarck. All are invited to attend. Also, a Mass of Thanksgiving will be offered on Sunday, May 29 at St. Mary's in Bismarck at 2 p.m. in honor of Fr. Klemmer.
Possible prayer to text box:
A Prayer for Priests
by St. Therese of Lisieux
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and
everlasting crown. Amen.