August 29, 2014

Father Stanley Herber celebrates 50 years as ‘a priest of Vatican II’

Father Stanley Herber delivers a homily during the Mass celebrating his 50th jubilee on May 4 at St. Gabriel Church in Connersville. (Submitted photo)

Father Stanley Herber delivers a homily during the Mass celebrating his 50th jubilee on May 4 at St. Gabriel Church in Connersville. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: Several archdiocesan priests are celebrating their 50-year jubilees in 2014. This week, we feature Father Stanley Herber.)

By Natalie Hoefer

Change was in the air in 1964 when Father Stanley Herber was ordained a priest.

“I was the last of the old,” he said. “My first Mass at St. Joan of Arc [Church in Indianapolis] was the full beauty of the Tridentine Mass in Latin. Then in the fall, the first changes [in the Mass] came about [from the Second Vatican Council].”

Vatican II brought about changes to the Mass and in other ways, but that was nothing new for Father Herber, whose life had been full of change as his father’s job led to several moves for the family.

The family eventually settled down in Indianapolis as Father Herber entered the seventh grade at St. Joan of Arc School.

“Our family got along great,” he said, despite being the only brother of six sisters. “We got two vocations out of our family, so I’d say our parents were pretty devout.”

One of his older siblings, Providence Sister Marilyn Herber, recalls him being “our mother’s favorite. He was a good student, and he always had friends around the neighborhood no matter where we lived.”

When Father Herber’s cousin was ordained in 1946, the new priest gave his first priestly blessing to the 9-year-old boy, suggesting Stanley may one day be giving blessings himself.

A few years later, Father Herber suspected he might have a call to the priesthood when a priest asked his sixth-grade class how one knows if they have a vocation.

“There was a boy who dared to answer, ‘You just know.’ I realized he had a vocation, and maybe I did, too.”

Time spent at the former Saint Meinrad High School in St. Meinrad, the former Our Lady of the Lakes Seminary in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, and finally at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology proved the calling to be true.

Father Herber’s first assignment as a priest was as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis and as an instructor at the former Bishop Bruté Latin School, an archdiocesan high school seminary on the parish campus.

“Teaching was a challenge for me,” Father Herber admitted. “I enjoyed it, but then decided it was time to move on.”

During the next 40 years, Father Herber served as a pastor, priest moderator and administrator of numerous parishes, and as dean of three deaneries.

However, the largest portion of his priestly ministry was spent as pastor at St. Mary Parish in New Albany for 14 years, and most recently at St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville, where he served for the last 18 years.

Father Stanley Herber, right, and a classmate pose at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad in the early 1960s. (Submitted photo)

Father Stanley Herber, right, and a classmate pose at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad in the early 1960s. (Submitted photo)

“I was almost at the retirement age [of 70] when I completed 12 years [at St. Gabriel Parish],” said Father Herber. “So I said, ‘Why don’t I just hang on another year.’ And then because they don’t push you out if you’re still ready to serve, I was welcome to stay.”

Father Herber renewed his commitment as pastor of St. Gabriel Parish annually from 2007 until his decision to retire this year.

“I’m slowing down,” he admitted. “Age is creeping in. I’ll be 77 in October. But I’ll be happy to help—I won’t be totally on the shelf.”

As he reflected on his 50 years as a priest, Father Herber recalled that “there was some confusion that came with the first changes from Vatican II” in terms of the Mass.

Overall, said Father Herber, “I don’t think of Vatican II as confusing, but as exciting.

“Vatican II was defining for my priesthood. I consider myself a priest of Vatican II. I think I came along at a wonderful time.

“When I was taking Scripture courses in major seminary, the new understanding of the Scripture was just coming to be taught. We got a whole deeper understanding of how Scripture developed, who wrote what, how it was put together. It was fascinating.

“And a deeper understanding of the liturgy was also being presented. A revolution was taking place, which finally was brought to full expression in Vatican II.”

One of the most impactful changes of Vatican II that he appreciates is the understanding of the priest’s role during Mass.

“The altar was brought forward with the people gathered around,” he said. “It gave a sense that [the Mass] was much more ‘we people with the priest are offering the Mass with Christ.’ It became more the people gathering as a communion of faithful people to be a part of the great offering of Jesus.”

It is the role of the priest during Mass that Father Herber finds most profound about the priesthood.

“Leading the people at the Eucharist, there’s a wonderful realization that Christ is working through you,” he said. “We constantly preach the presence of Jesus in the people, the word, the priest and Communion.”

Father Herber’s love for the Mass comes through when he presides, said Pamela Rader, business manager at St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville.

“He’s so good with liturgies,” she said. “He’s very spiritual. You can tell he did everything with meaning. He’s just a sweet, gentle person, very generous, a good role model.”

Joy Seffrin, a member and volunteer at the parish, agreed.

“He was a good shepherd for this parish,” she said. “He had a good way of presenting things during his homilies, always looking toward making us more spiritual as a Church.

“I’ll miss him. I like our new priest, too, but I’ll miss Father [Herber].”

Peggy and Edward “Ed” Ehlers became friends with Father Herber a few years after he became pastor of St. Mary Parish in New Albany in 1975.

The couple was searching for a Catholic parish with a preschool.

After discussing St. Mary Parish and school with them, said Peggy, “[Father Herber] said to us, ‘If you would ever like to invite a poor priest to dinner, that would be very nice!’ So I took that to heart and invited him to dinner.”

They have not only remained friends, but have come to view Father Herber as “part of our family,” said Peggy.

“He traveled out to Washington state to perform one of our sons’ wedding. Our lives just wouldn’t be as spiritually rich without him.”

When asked to describe Father Herber, Ed recited a litany of positive traits.

“He’s sincere, honest, outgoing, caring,” said Ed. “He’s a strong Christian, sincere in his faith, sharing, motivating, a man of prayer. I know of countless people who would point to Father Stan as their spiritual advisor and role model. He affected a lot of lives in a positive way.”

Ed recalled the challenge Father Herber faced when Holy Trinity Parish’s church—just two blocks from St. Mary Parish in New Albany—burned down in 1975.

“That left an Irish Catholic-based church and a German-based church in a position where they needed to join together,” he said. “Father Stan had to help coordinate the joining of the two parishes. It was a monumental task.

“He was a marketer of change—not for the sake of change, but change for a reason.

“I have so much respect for him. He’s just a blessing to you when you’re with him.”

Sister Marilyn recalls one particular Mass her brother celebrated that defined his priesthood.

“We were on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land at the Sea of Galilee,” she said. “He was saying Mass. We were facing the sun, and Stan had his back to the sun.

“It was homily time, and he said, ‘You really can’t see my face can you? No, because it’s in the shadow.

‘This is how it should be. I must decrease. Christ must increase.’

“That’s what his priesthood has been about.”

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to

More about Father Stanley Herber

  • Age: 76
  • Parents: The late Knute and Bertha Herber
  • Siblings: Six sisters, one now deceased
  • Childhood parish: St. Joan of Arc in Indianapolis (after moving to various cities in Indiana and Michigan)
  • Seminary: The former Saint Meinrad High School in St. Meinrad, the former Our Lady of the Lakes Seminary in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, ordained from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
  • Ordained: May 3, 1964
  • Favorite Scripture: The Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35)
  • Favorite devotion: The Divine Office
  • Hobbies: Golf, reading magazines such as the National Catholic Register, America, Commonweal and The Priest. †

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