Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Hermann began talking to Jesus in the Eucharist from the time he was a young student at Our Lady of Help of Christians School in Weingarten.
“My first Communion was the first sacrament that I really entered into in a deep way,” he said. “That was one of the greatest days of my life, because I was so touched by what the Lord offered us in the Holy Eucharist.”
His experience with the Eucharist — through a lesson he learned from his teacher, Sister Mary Pius — eventually led him to consider a vocation to the priesthood. This month, the retired auxiliary bishop celebrates 60 years of priesthood. December also was the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.
Of his priestly service, Bishop Hermann said: “I can’t think of anything I would have enjoyed half as much as being a priest.”
Robert Hermann and his 14 siblings grew up in Weingarten, a small community in Ste. Genevieve County. The Hermann children attended Our Lady Help of Christians School. There wasn’t transportation to the nearby Catholic high school, so he and his three brothers stayed at home and worked on the farm.
Robert eventually applied to attend St. Louis Preparatory Seminary in St. Louis. His parents and Our Lady Help of Christians Parish were very supportive of his decision. An older brother, Francis, who also went to the seminary, served as a mentor. His brother eventually left the seminary and started a family.
Bishop Hermann said his desire was to be a parish priest. But Cardinal Joseph Ritter had different plans for him. Not long after his ordination on March 30, 1963, Father Hermann was sent to Saint Louis University to work on a master’s degree in English. In 1967, he was assigned to full-time teaching duties at the new St. Louis Preparatory Seminary-North, where he remained for 12 years.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Father Hermann served as a part-time associate pastor in several parishes while he was teaching at the seminary. One of them was the former Holy Ghost in the north St. Louis County suburb of Berkeley, where he was baptized in the Holy Spirit on the feast of the Transfiguration, Aug. 6, 1972, with a Charismatic Renewal group.
Father Hermann had asked the group to pray over him to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “When I sat down and looked up at the Crucifix, I gripped my armchair with tight hands and I said to the Lord, ‘If you don’t come down and give me those gifts, I’m going to come up there and get them.’”
A man who was praying over him said: “You can’t receive anything in your hands the way you have them, can you?” The remark gave him a new perspective.
“Up until then, I was doing good things for the Lord, and now it was time to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” he recalled. “That night, for the first time in my life, I felt loved not for what I did, but I felt loved for who I was.”
The encounter led to a longtime relationship with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, serving as director of the office from 1979-82. Today, he remains involved with the Catholic Renewal Center, offering healing prayer and spiritual direction.
By 1982, Father Hermann was immersed in full-time parish ministry as a pastor. He served at St. Andrew Parish in Lemay for several years until 1988, when he was appointed pastor of Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield.
He enjoyed teaching Scripture study and leading prayer meetings. “It was such an exciting time to be out in a parish and to see how the Spirit was working so alive in the parishioners,” he said. “I learned from the people, from their gifts and what God was doing in their hearts — that was such an outstanding joy.”
Through the use of three Parish Vision weekends and a survey, the people of Incarnate Word identified priorities and established a vision and mission. A stewardship program also was implemented to generate the resources needed to support new ministries.
One of those priorities was to get young people to Mass. The introduction of the national Life Teen program was seen as a blessing to the parish, and it later inspired vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
After 14 years at Incarnate Word, Pope John Paul II named Father Hermann an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. His episcopal ordination was held on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, 2002. He has served under four archbishops: Cardinals Justin F. Rigali and Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and now Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski.
He also served as the administrator of the archdiocese from July 2008 until June 2009, after Cardinal Burke was named to a position at the Vatican. During that time, he noticed a great gift in the leadership of the archdiocese.
While he preferred to remain a pastor, Bishop Hermann said his time as a bishop gave him a larger picture of what’s going on in the archdiocese, as well as the joy of celebrating the sacrament of confirmation. “Being able to talk to the kids — that was very exciting and fulfilling,” he said.
On Dec. 1, 2010, at the age of 76, Pope Benedict XVI accepted his retirement, and he became an auxiliary bishop emeritus. In retirement, he remained active with the Catholic Renewal Center as a liaison, attended events, preached, provided spiritual direction and wrote. He also was a spiritual director at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in retirement.
In April 2020, Bishop Hermann moved to Regina Cleri residence for retired priests. Being among fellow priests, he clearly sees where the Lord is moving him.
“When I look at all the times in my life, the time I find the most exciting is the present time,” he said. “In the past, I was blessed to have people receiving so many gifts and me being able to work with them and seeing how those gifts carry on evangelization.
“Today, I am seeing how God wants now to transform me in a more inward way, in a deeper way,” he said. “It is such a blessing to be at Regina Cleri, where so many fellow priests are there an hour before Mass in absolute silence. When you walk in you are so aware of Christ’s silent presence in all of them, and that is such a time of growth.”
Bishop Hermann said he believes he’s witnessed a deepening of Jesus’ eucharistic presence within himself and other retired priests at Regina Cleri. It allows them to be “more powerful intercessors with Him throughout the rest of the day,” he said. “Everything I do throughout the day, I offer up for the Church, for evangelization of people, for people who are hurt. This is a chance to pray with Christ in an intercessory way for the world.”
>> About Bishop Robert J. Hermann
• Born on Aug. 12, 1934
• Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis on March 30, 1963, by Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter
• Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis on Oct. 16, 2002; also appointed Titular Bishop of Zerta
• Episcopal ordination on Dec. 12, 2002; principal consecrator was Archbishop Justin F. Rigali
• Retired on Dec. 1, 2010