Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 8, 1999
He sought God among the stars
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
As Cochrane writer Warren Harbeck put it, Franciscan Father Lucien Kemble "is synonymous with discovery in the all-night vigil world of starhopping."
With the help of his faithful companions, a Celestron 280-mm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a pair of binoculars, the Franciscan some years ago stumbled upon a previously unnoticed cluster of stars in the northern sky.
The chain of rather faint stars not far from the constellation of Cassiopeia is now known as "Kemble's Cascade."
In 1989 Kemble received a Royal Canadian Astronomical Society of Canada award in recognition of his meticulous and careful observations.
Astronomer, retreat leader, pastor, teacher and Franciscan, Kemble died in Regina Feb. 21. He was 76.
"Luke was an excellent astronomer, certainly the best astronomer I've ever encountered and I think he's got to be one of the best amateur astronomers in the world," said Peter Bergbusch, an astronomer at the University of Regina and one of Kemble's best friends.
"He was a careful and meticulous observer and he recorded things with care and detail. And he was so enthusiastic."
For Kemble, astronomy was more than a hobby. "It was a passion," Bergbusch observed. "He used astronomy as a way of engaging people and of talking to them and making connections with them. He made friends through astronomy in places as far away as Turkey and Norway."
Father Don MacDonald, superior of the Franciscans in Western Canada, said, "He was a real Franciscan in that he was in love with creation and had a constant sense of awe, astonishment and wonder about nature and the cosmos."
"And for him it was really important that God was at the centre of creation. He was a person who knew that the greatest capacity of the human being was astonishment and wonder and awe before the work of God."
Kemble was born in Pincher Creek, Nov. 5, 1922. He completed high school there before serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
After the war, he attended St. Anthony's College in Edmonton where he entered the Franciscans. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 7, 1953.
He taught at Cleri Seminary in Regina, Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Sask., and St. Francis College in Biddeford, Maine.
Kemble also served as pastor in Port Alberni, B.C., and as retreat leader at Mount St. Francis in Cochrane and St. Michael's Retreat House in Lumsden, Sask. He lectured at Newman Theological College in Edmonton.
Kemble was also an accomplished musician, painter and scientific writer.
He developed "a tremendous interest and enthusiasm for nature from an early age," recalled his friend Bergbusch.
About 30 years ago he started taking a direct interest in amateur astronomy and became an observer with a telescope. He had what Bergbusch called a reasonably well-equipped amateur observatory.
"But astronomy was just one part of his curiosity about the natural world," Bergbusch observed. "He was always interested in the nature around him - the birds, the animals, the flowers."
Kemble's friend and colleague Franciscan Father Anthony Sebastian of Victoria said, "Any aspect of creation was so important to him, from the littlest, tiniest thing to the great galaxies."
Bergbusch said Kemble struck a chord with many people around the world. "Every person who ever came into contact and ended up talking with Luke developed the feeling somehow that they were the most important people in the world," he said.
Funeral services were held for Kemble in Regina Feb. 24 and in Calgary Feb. 26.