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Father Ray Herman

Father Ray Herman was a priest from the Archdiocese of Dubuque who grew up on a farm south of Independence, Ia. After graduation from High School in 1947 he went to Iowa State College in Ames, Ia. After receiving a degree in agriculture he went to Loras College in Dubuque, Ia. to begin studies for the priesthood.

After ordination he served for five years at the Cathedral in Dubuque. Being somewhat unfulfilled in his service he began petitioning the archbishop to go to a mission country. After two petitions he was able to affiliate with the Maryknoll Missionaries and went to Boliva. He served there for a time until our archdiocese adopted a parish at which he served. Still he did not feel his life was fulfilled and wanted to serve the very poorest of the poor. So he went up into the mountains of Boliva where he ministered to very, very poor Indian people. To do that he had to learn his third language, a very difficult Indian language. He ministered to the people by driving a jeep, a donkey or walking to the many villages he served.

In addition to his sacramental ministry he began to lift up the poor potato farmers by helping them form co-ops to get a better price for their potatoes. He also built a hospital so that the people would not have to travel many miles for many hours to have a broken leg or something cared for. He also built a school to educate them.

After being in Boliva for fifteen years the rich apparently did not like him lifting up the oppressed people. So he was brutally murdered after dedicating the hospital he built. The man who murdered him was never brought to justice.

Ray gave himself and all he had to the poor. Fr. Leon Connally who brought his body home to Independence gathered up his belongings. They all fit neatly into one cigar box. Ray loved to come home after a long hard day and enjoy a good cigar.

At the 25th. anniversary of his death a celebration was held at Independence. Over 800 kids were bused in from the schools. The kids and many adults processed twelve blocks from the church to the cemetery singing songs and reciting prayers. In the evening a mass was held in the church.

At that time Loras College produced a video of his life and it was named "Cigar Box Ray." This year we mark the 35th. anniversary of his death.

Deacon John Herman

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