Wisconsin Rapids Deanery

of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Fr. John SwingReflections from Bolivia

Remembering the life and death
of Fr. Ray Herman

By Fr. John Swing
January 2009

Monday, October 20, 1975, was not a good day. I was studying Spanish at the Maryknoll Language School in Cochabamba. I received word that Fr. Leon Connolly had broken his ankle while on a youth trip the day before. Fr. Leon was a priest from the Diocese of Dubuque and pastor at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Cochabamba. We had become very good friends. Also at the parish was Fr. Dave Donovan.
Fr. Ray Herman, also from Dubuque, worked in Morochata, Bolivia, a three- or four-hour jeep ride away.
Then came the terrible news. Fr. Herman had been shot and killed. Fr. Dave Donavan and Fr. Leon immediately got into the parish jeep and set out for Morochata.
I had been to Morachata the week before. We were part of a parish mission. That night was so serene. No electricity, only candlelight in the church. Even though the church was full, there was a soft silence. Only the quiet murmuring as people recited the rosary, an occasional cry of a child. They were waiting to Fr. Raymundo to start benediction.
I nearly jumped out of my socks as we came out into the sanctuary. It was the custom to announce the beginning of Mass by exploding a stick of dynamite in the plaza in front of the church. They were miners and regularly used dynamite in their work.
Later that evening, as all of us priests gathered in the living room of the rectory, I asked Fr. Ray if he liked to hunt. There were many hunting trophies of deer, bear, and mountain lions hanging on the wall. Fr. Ray said that they belong to the former pastor and he never bothered to remove them. Besides, he said, “I hate guns.”
One week later, Fr. Ray was shot and killed while he slept in his bed in that very same rectory. Now, go to this link to read more about Fr. Ray: www.blessedsac.net/herman.html.