Father Andrew Kemberling
Father Andrew Kemberling
“I am an art teacher by training, and I believe that systems work by implementing the values that you hold.”
Father Andrew Kemberling was born in Tucson, Ariz., and is one of 10 children. “I’m kind of used to big crowds and noisy groups,” he said with a laugh. He attended the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in art education.
Father Andrew entered the Holy Cross Abbey in 1981 and made his solemn vows in the Benedictine order in 1985. He received his Master of Divinity Degree at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and was ordained June 11, 1988 by Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Diocese of Pueblo.
In Colorado, Father Andrew has served as assistant at Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder, sub-prior and vocation director at Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, associate pastor of St. Joseph Church in Grand Junction, administrator at St. Francis Xavier in Pueblo and pastor of the 850-family parish Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder.
“I’m a stewardship priest,” Father Andrew said. “I’ve served on the archdiocese stewardship committee and have preached tithing frequently as a keynote speaker for Stewardship Day in the archdiocese.
“The potential for stewardship is enormous (at St. Thomas More),” Father Andrew said. “Stewardship is more than just giving your money. You’ve got to get people involved in the other aspects of the church, too. It really is ‘time, talent and treasure,’ not treasure, treasure, treasure.”
For Father Andrew, stewardship isn’t a gimmick. It’s a form of spirituality. “Stewardship is the conversion in a materialistic world. If we can really see it as a ‘living’ spirituality, it’ll change all of us.”
Even living simply as a priest, Father Andrew has made stewardship a priority in his own life. “It has helped me not to worry about my financial picture. I know that God will take care of me. My trust in God has increased because of stewardship.”
The real blessing of stewardship comes in truly experiencing that “we are not the ones in charge,” Father Andrew said. “Because we have the financial means, we want all of the possibilities. People are driving themselves hard these days, but in the end they find themselves worn out. They can’t have enough, and they find that there’s something still missing.”
Giving financially to the church is a form of vesting ourselves in its mission and its future, Father Andrew said. Just as important, however, is the time we spend in prayer in support of our church, our families and our community.
“Dedicating time to prayer –– real time –– is a form of tithing,” Father Andrew said. “I like to challenge people to tithe 10 percent of the day in prayer. In a 24-hour day, that adds up to two hours and 24 minutes in prayer. That could be an hour in Mass and then the rest of the time in prayer or Bible study or the rosary. If we really want to honor God, we will give him time.”
Father Andrew ended 12 years as pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary in Boulder and spent some time in a monastery to seek direction on whether to remain a priest in the Benedictine Order or to become a diocesan priest. In June of 2000 Archbishop Charles Chaput asked him to come to St. Thomas More.
The youth of St. Thomas More are delighted to learn that Father Andrew is dedicated to youth ministry. “I am an art teacher by training, and I believe that systems work by implementing the values that you hold.” In Boulder, he established a mentor-based youth program that enables older teens to reach out to and minister to younger peers. The relationships that formed helped build a network of strength, support and shared spirituality that has nurtured the kids and solidified their Catholic faith.
Father Andrew studied the youth ministries of many Protestant churches, and modeled his efforts in Boulder on those successful multi-dimensional programs. “Those kids are on fire, and I wanted to capture that spirit,” he said. “A lot of the education we’ve done with the Catholic Church has been ‘head knowledge,’ yet Protestant youth groups have not filled their kids’ heads with a lot of cognitive knowledge. They fill their hearts with love and moral character.” Protestant churches also pour significant money into their youth programs, because they know that lack of investment in youth today creates a risk of losing those youth tomorrow. Today’s teens need their faith to be relevant, or else they have no interest in it, Father Andrew said.
Father Andrew’s program at Sacred Heart of Mary engaged older youth in ministering to younger kids through Bible sharing and Bible study. “It’s multi-dimensional, so there’s a dynamic that fills all their needs. All high school kids have a mission of what they’re going to learn, and then teach to others. Younger kids can’t wait to be mentors when they get older.”
Summertime also represents many opportunities for youth, Father Andrew said, and he hopes to make St. Thomas More a gathering place for youth of all ages. His Boulder parish had a thriving schedule for youth including a hike club and various sports, Bible studies, picnics and dances. It took three years to build that youth program at Sacred Heart of Mary, but the rewards have been overwhelming for the families of the church, he said.
“It helped these kids to become ‘super Catholics,’ to a degree that can be almost embarrassing,” Father Andrew said. “But if you want zeal in your youth, this is how to get it.”