Vespers will take place at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at St. Mary Help of Christians Church, 138 Fairfield St. SE, Aiken, South Carolina, for Father Ernest C. Hepner, a retired priest from the Diocese of Cleveland. Presider and homilist will be the Very Rev. Gregory B. Wilson. Msgr. Richard Harris will celebrate the funeral Mass on Jan. 6 at St. Mary Help of Christians Church.
Father Hepner, 89, died on Dec. 31, 2020.
He was born on Jan. 7, 1931 to the late Julius and Magda (Hartman) Hepner. Father Hepner was educated at Lafayette Elementary School, St. Mary Margaret School, Benedictine High School and John Carroll University. He also attended St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe and the North American College in Rome.
Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor ordained him to the priesthood for service to the Diocese of Cleveland on Dec. 20, 1961 in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
His first assignment was as parochial vicar of Holy Rosary Parish in Cleveland. Father Hepner also served on the faculty of Saint Mary Seminary from September 1963 to August 1968, when he went to St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada for graduate studies. He returned to Saint Mary in 1969.
In January 1975, he became a member of the Medical Moral Advisory Board. Father Hepner was a staff member of the Permanent Diaconate Program from July 23, 1976 to July 1, 1978.
On Sept. 15, 1977, he was appointed co-pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Wickliffe, before becoming pastor on May 15, 1978. Father Hepner was appointed pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Bedford on Jan. 27, 1987, serving there until his retirement on Jan. 7, 2001.
After retiring, Father Hepner moved to South Carolina, where he continued his priestly ministry at a number of parishes.
Those who knew him said he was a hard worker, was dedicated to the people entrusted to his care and he spent his life in service of others. He loved being a priest and his primary focus was to bring people closer to Christ.
A private burial will be scheduled later at Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, South Carolina.