Clem died today, July 16, the 99th Anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish where he served from 1984-1993. I served with him from 1984-1987.
Clem was short in stature and a pastoral giant.
Clem first believed in Jesus Christ as a child, then lived his faith among people brought low by heartache, loneliness, and guilt. He learned in a one-room schoolhouse, then taught in universities and parishes. Clem acquired a work ethic on a North Dakota ranch, then lived out his beliefs at the altar in many sanctuaries.
He served in military discipline, then learned the flow of unappreciable pastoral life. Clem drove a yellow Volkswagen on streets and flew his favorite plane in the sky. Clem loved Texas Blue-Bells, Colorado Aspen, bird songs, and steep mountains, yet his life was firmly planted in the reality of people’s pain.
Clem read gospel commentaries every day, then authored newspaper columns of his everyday life in Christ Jesus. Clem loved new ideas and approaches as a pastor, so to bring the gospel into greater light. Clem broke through the challenges of Vatican II and found God who loved him and the people on the edges of Church life.
Clem jogged his way to health after suffering prostate cancer. Bishop Hanifen in Colorado Springs, now 90, still remembers his 4:00am runs.
Clem taught me to lock church doors. One Christmas he talked down a thief wielding a knife in our unlocked church who wanted to steal the money Clem was carrying. I still ask Clem for forgiveness from that moment.
Clem laughed with us. He loved us.
Clem penned his homilies prior to Sunday, until one day he found them in his heart.
Fr. Clem commissioned a monk to design and sew wool vestments and a local potter to create liturgical cups and plates. He believed that Jesus is revealed in human creativity and the work of human hands. I still wear those chasubles, with remembrance and love.
Clem served nine years as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Colorado Springs. I serve in that exact position but cannot hold a candle to his leadership and influence.
Fr. Clem, rest in peace.