Charles Herman Helmsing was born to George and Louis Helmsing on March 23, 1908 in Shrewsbury, Missouri. After hearing God’s call to the priesthood, Helmsing entered St. Louis Preparatory Seminary and then went on to Kenrick Seminary before being ordained a priest for the diocese of St. Louis on June 10, 1933. His priestly example and faithful service earned him the appointment as papal chamberlain (monsignor) on February 15, 1946. Soon after he was consecrated auxiliary bishop of St. Louis under Cardinal Ritter on April 19, 1949. He took a marked interest in the propagation of the faith, the instruction of converts, the work of the Legion of Mary, as well as both foreign and home missions. His work as secretary and master of ceremonies for Cardinal Ritter and took on a number of other positions including Director of the Diocesan Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1956, when Pope Pius XII divided Missouri into four distinct dioceses, Bishop Helmsing was appointed first bishop of the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau. He was installed as bishop there on November 28, 1956.
After the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph was left vacant upon the appointment of Bishop Cody as coadjutor of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Pope John XXIII looked south for his successor. Bishop Helmsing was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph on January 31, 1962. In his installation homily on April 3, 1962, Bishop Helmsing explained his motto:
In the sacrifice of the Cross, Christ our Lord identified Himself with the Old Testament servant of Yahweh, the slave of Almighty God, foretold by the prophets. It was this realization that impelled me to take as the motto of my life and work as a Bishop, the inspired words of the 115th Psalm, Servus tuus, filius anciliae “O Lord, I am Thy slave and the son of Thy handmaid”. It is in this spirit that I come to you with humble determination aided by our Lord’s grace to imitate Him as the slave of the Lord Who became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross; and also in imitation of His Mother, Mary, who when the greatest possible task was given to her of mothering the Son of God, referred to herself “Behold the slave-girl of the Lord”.
Bishop Helmsing served the Lord by serving the faithful of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and serving His Church. At the time of his installation, Bishop Helmsing was already making preparations for his participation in the Second Vatican Council which was to convene for its first session that coming Fall. Taking with him his Fr. William Baum, who was vice chancellor at the time, as a peritus (expert), Bishop Helmsing took part in all five sessions of the Second Vatican Council and was most influential in the composition of the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio).
Back in Kansas City, Bishop Helmsing lead the diocese through one of the most influential periods of its half a century history. He helped to usher in the era of civil rights for Americans of any color. He brought home the documents of the Second Vatican Council and was responsible for implementing them in the diocese. He was dedicated to easing tensions between and working with our separated brethren. And he was a loyal son of the Church who found obedience and humility as the ways to sanctity.
Serving as bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph until 1977, Bishop Charles H. Helmsing was a champion of the truth of the Catholic Faith and a man of deep charity for God, Our Blessed Mother, fellow Christians, and all mankind. His devotion to the Church and service to this diocese is an inspiration to us at the Bishop Helmsing Institute.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.