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Body found of 24-year-old seminarian who drowned

The young man went missing a month ago after rescuing a fellow kayaker from turbulent waters

A body found in Arkansas River has been identified as that of a seminarian, Brian Bergkamp from the Diocese of Wichita.

Bergkamp, who was studying for the Kansas diocese at a Maryland seminary, had been missing since he saved the life of a woman who fell into the Arkansas River on 9 July. According to The Wichita Eagle, Bergkamp jumped from his kayak to save the woman, who had been caught in turbulent waters, before getting pulled under himself. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Bergkamp, 24, had been one of five people travelling in separate kayaks when the incident happened. Although the other kayakers made it to shore, three days later, Bergkamp remained missing and was presumed dead. His family said his funeral and burial would be private.

A fisherman reported a sighting of a life vest floating in the water, with a rosary attached to it. The discovery led to finding the body of the missing seminarian. On July 29, The coroner confirmed his identity and informed the missing man’s family.

Law enforcement officials in Wichita made the announcement on 1 August.

The Wichita Diocese issued a statement on the same day: “Our prayers continue to be lifted up for the consolation of Brian’s family as they take the next step to honour the memory of their son and brother.”

The diocese expressed “gratitude to God for his abundant graces offered to strengthen all impacted by Brian’s death, to the members of the recovery team and personnel of the Wichita Fire and Police departments, and to those others who have helped in any way throughout this tragedy.”

“Brian’s diocesan family is also thankful that his mortal remains will be able to be laid to rest and have a place at which continued prayers may be offered for his eternal well-being.”

Bergkamp had just finished his second year at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, which is in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is the son of Ned and Theresa Bergkamp of Garden Plain, and would have been ordained to the transitional diaconate at the end of the upcoming school year. His brother, Andy, was ordained to the transitional diaconate in May. He was preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Wichita at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.

The Archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori, said: “Brian’s death is a great tragedy and a great loss, not only for his family and friends, but to all who knew him and to the church he was so generously seeking to serve.”

At the time of Bergkamp’s heroic rescue, Bishop Carl A Kemme, from Wichita, wrote to the Catholic Advance, a diocesan newspaper, commending the young man’s qualities. He said: “I knew Brian to be an exceptional seminarian, well on his way to demonstrating so many of the qualities needed to be a good and faithful priest. I personally looked forward to the day when I might be able to ordain him.”


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