Published On: Tue, Feb 14th, 2012

Final Farewell

HARTINGTON —  Cedar County lost a trusted friend last week.

Friends and family members packed the Holy Trinity Catholic Church Monday to say a final farewell to Msgr. Cyril Werner. Werner, 91, died Wednesday. He had served as a priest for over 65 years, 60 of them in Cedar County.

Msgr. Cyril J. Werner, is gone, but his legacy of caring will live on forever in the hearts of Northern Cedar County residents.

Msgr. Werner served as the pastor for Holy Trinity Catholic Church from 1969-89 and has assisted the local church ever since retiring here in 1992.

He helped expand the local Catholic schools during his time in Hartington.

Msgr. Werner was also one of the founding members of the Cedar Catholic High School and Holy Trinity Parish Endowments during his years in Hartington.

Of all of the many fond memories people have of him, he is probably best known for the phrase “God is Good.”

The parishioners of his church would say God was indeed good to the community when he sent Werner to Cedar County to serve as a priest here more than 60 years ago.

While a pastor at Holy Trinity, he was a faculty member from 1963 – 1989 at Cedar Catholic High School.

Msgr. Werner taught Religion Classes to the upper elementary students and also taught Latin Classes for many years.

His first freshmen class for Latin consisted of 80 students, although the Latin class was slowly removed from the criteria at the school some time in the 1980s.

Msgr. Werner was a familiar figure at the Catholic Schools in Hartington.

His presence at the school was much more then at the just elementary and high school Masses.

Cedar Catholic/Holy Trinity Principal Terry Kathol said Msgr. Werner would always be in the Elementary School during lunch time.

“He would often sit on the edge of a platform that held a statute of Jesus. As the elementary kids would walk by, he would talk to them,” Kathol said. “Even today he would sit and talk to the kids.”

Msgr. Werner set an example that others could follow, Kathol said.

“He was a figure in the Catholic community for a long time,” Kathol said. “He was a humble man. He was a good model for others to follow.”

Msgr. Werner had said the Catholic faith is a strong aspect in Northeast Nebraska because they practiced the faith when they were young.

“They practiced the faith in church and school and had old strict German pastors that followed the Baltimore Catechism,” Msgr. Werner had said.

Msgr. Werner was also insistant about getting a summer youth camp started for local parishioners. He then enlisted Lee and Lois Lammers to run the camp, which they did for 22 years.

Msgr. Werner’s influence at the Holy Trinity Youth Camps, which were held for incoming freshmen students, was evident to Lee and Lois Lammers.

“He came and gave talks and said Mass. He was always willing to help. He would often-times assist with the Youth Camps that were held at Bow Valley, too,” said Lois Lammers.

From the time Werner arrived in Cedar County,  he had baptized close to 750 babies, married over 285 couples and buried 365 people.

Werner was definitely a member of the community. He often played cards with families and loved to play Sheephead. He had a strong relationship with many of the families and loved watching the children he baptized and counseled grow up.

Paul Steffen remembers Msgr. Werner as a man who was always faithful to his responsibilities.

“He didn’t cut any corners. He was very, very obedient to the church,” Steffen said. “If he was supposed to be a 6:30 mass – he was there. Even if the roads were icy and he couldn’t drive to the church – he would walk. It was a real privilege to serve at the alter with him.”

The last mass Werner said was in the chapel at his home on the Sunday before he died.

“He said mass for his sister who is 96. He wanted her to be able to attend mass,” Steffen said. “It took a lot of strength for him to do it. He offered it up for her.”

According to Steffen, Werner had an unique ability to remember families and names.

Steffen remembers Werner had many stories to tell of his early priesthood.

Werner was born in Iowa and moved to Nebraska when he was one year old.

He was then raised in the Creighton area with his five siblings. After graduating high school he attended two years of college before joining the pre-seminary program in Missouri at the age of  20.

Werner continued in the pre-seminary program for two years before beginning the seminary program at Kenrick Seminary, St. Louis, MO.

He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1945.

Werner was very happy with the path he chose to travel.

At his 65th Priesthood Anniversary, Werner had said at one time he was not sure where he wanted his life to go so he decided to give the priesthood a try.

“I thought joining the seminary was probably what God wanted. I thought I’d give it a try – look what happened,” Werner said. “I am glad I did. God’s good to me, really,”

After his retirement 1992, Werner was given the title of pastor emeritus at Holy Trinity and continued to say mass, serve as the chaplain for the annual youth camp and perform many other duties.

He continued to serve the parish until he was hospitalized for pneumonia just before this last Christmas.

The Rev. Jeffery Loseke, current pastor of Holy Trinity, was not on hand to say farewell at Werner’s funeral on Monday,

In a letter to the parishioners at Holy Trinity, Loseke said he had told Monsignor he would see him later as he departed on a trip to the Vatican in Rome. It turned out to be his final good-bye to Werner.

Monsignor had responded to Loseke with his usual response: “I hope so.”

“Those words ring truer in my memory now than ever before. ‘I hope so’,” Loseke wrote in his letter. “Indeed, this is the faith of the Church, this is our faith. Our blessed hope is that we will be reunited with Monsignor Werner and all our beloved dead in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Loseke wrote that Monsignor was not only a faithful priest of God’s – he was also a brother and friend.

“Monsignor always tried to serve me and the needs of the parish to the best of his ability,” he wrote.