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Catholic Bishop, Bergkamp 'died in the most priestly way'

Published: Jul. 18, 2016 at 1:06 PM CDT
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More than one thousand people gathered Monday morning for the Memorial Mass of Brian Bergkamp.

Brian went missing in the Arkansas River on Saturday July 9th while trying to save someone else.

Roughly 1,300 people gathered at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception to remember his life.

Brian was studying to become a priest. His fellow seminarians from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, along with deacons, priests and three bishops, were all there to show their support.

"Our faith gathers us together this morning to pray for and remember our brother Brian Bergkamp," said Bishop Carl Kemme with the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

Brian's brother Andy, a deacon in the church, delivered the homily. He said they've been overwhelmed by the prayers offered throughout the world.

"Words cannot express how much your prayers have meant to us or how helpful it has been," said Andy Bergkamp.

July 9th, Brian was on the Arkansas River, kayaking with four other people. Wichita firefighters told Eyewitness News the group lost control.

Three people made it to shore. Brian went back for the fourth.

Firefighters say he dove into the water, took off his life vest and gave it to the woman, saving her.

"Although not brought to fruition, Brian diligently gave himself to seminary formation. He was a Christian gentleman, living a faithful life, ready to give his life at a moment's notice," said Andy Bergkamp.

Bishop Carl Kemme told stories of Brian's loyalty, work ethic and sense of humor.

"That's what I'll take, for the remainder of my days and what a gift it was," said Kemme.

Even though he did not get the chance to graduate from the seminary, he will still be remembered as a man who gave his life for others.

"He may not have been a priest, but lived and died in the most priestly way," said Kemme.

High and fast moving water on the Arkansas River forced search crews with the Wichita Fire Department to stop their in-water search before they could find Brian's body.

They need the water levels to go down before they can safely get back in the water. The fire chief says right now, he has no idea when that can happen.