Beloved 'priest of priests' and Catholic convert, Fr. Conrad Kimbrough passes away
HIGH POINT — The Diocese of Charlotte lost a beloved priest and mentor to clergy throughout the diocese July 5, as Father Conrad Kimbrough passed away at Pennybyrn at Maryfield nursing home in High Point.
Solemn Evening Prayer was celebrated July 7, 2011, at Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis July 8, 2011, at Sacred Heart Church with burial immediately following at the parish cemetery.
The homily was given by Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary Church in Greenville, S.C. Read his homily here.
Father Kimbrough was born in Salisbury on May 10, 1927, the son of the late Conrad Lewis Kimbrough and the late Zola Vesta Ussery Kimbrough, both of Salisbury. He graduated from Boyden High School in Salisbury and after attending two years at Brevard College, graduated from Berea College in Kentucky in 1948. He began his studies for the Episcopal priesthood at Nashotah House in Nashotah, Wis., in 1948, where he earned his bachelor's and Master of Divinity degrees and was ordained in 1952. Over the next 15 years, he served in a number of posts in the Episcopal diocese of Fond du Lac, Wis.
Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his life as an Episcopalian, Father Kimbrough became a Catholic in 1977 and shortly thereafter returned to North Carolina where he applied to Bishop Michael J. Begley, the first bishop of Charlotte, for ordination as a Catholic priest. After a few months of study at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., Bishop Begley ordained him on Feb. 11, 1978, at St. Ann Church in Charlotte.
He served in the Diocese of Charlotte as a diocesan consultor, a member of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Vocations Committee, in addition to serving as pastor of a number of parishes including St. Francis of Assisi in Lenoir, St. Dorothy in Lincolnton, Immaculate Conception in Hendersonville, St. Benedict in Greensboro and Holy Spirit in Denver. He served for a brief time as administrator at St. William in Murphy.
He was a fervent promoter of priestly and religious vocations. During his time as pastor at St. Benedict Church in Greensboro, he saw nine men go into the seminary and two women enter into religious life.
Father Kimbrough was the first priest Father Brandon Jones, pastor of Holy Reedemer Church in Andrews, ever met. Father Jones is a convert to the Catholic faith and recalls their first meeting.
"I remember I was 13 years old at the time (when Father Kimbrough was pastor at St. Benedict Church) and he asked me, 'Do you believe in the Bible?' When I said yes, he said 'Well my Church wrote it.'"
"That was a formative event in my conversion to the faith," said Father Jones.
After retiring as pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Denver, Father Kimbrough returned to his home in Salisbury where he continued to offer parish assistance to both Sacred Heart in Salisbury and other parishes in the dioceses of Charlotte and Charleston, S.C. His final years were spent living at Pennybyrn at Maryfield in High Point, a retirement and nursing facility operated by the Poor Sisters of the Mother of God, where he continued to remain active until his health prevented him from doing so.
A champion for the protection of the unborn, Father Kimbrough was active in the pro-life movement and was instrumental in establishing Room at the Inn, a residential home for mothers in Charlotte.
He was also an avid genealogist, and he donated his genealogy papers to the Rowan County Public Library.
He is survived by one sister, Betty Jane "Betsy" Harrielle of Concord, and two brothers: Frank Kimbrough of Roxboro and Norman Kimbrough of Wilmington; and seven nieces and nephews.
"To my mind, the Kingdom is richer," expressed Father Benjamin Roberts, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury who is currently in Rome, as he reflected on his mentor's passing.
"We are richer as individuals and parishes and as a diocese because he lived the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, entrusted to him, among us. I will always remember Father Kimbrough as one who encouraged vocations, in general and in particular. He worked diligently with couples who were preparing for marriage. He was a gentle, but firm, counselor to seminarians. He was a loving father to many of us and truly rejoiced when we became his brothers. Whenever I would go to see him, even in the last month, I would ask for his blessing. And then, he would fold his hands and ask for mine. The Kingdom is richer, and I am so much richer for having been blesed by Father Kimbrough."
Memorials may be made to the Father Kimbrough Scholarship Fund of the Te Deum Foundation, 2767 London Lane; Winston-Salem, N.C. 27103.
-- SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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