Photos courtesy of Fr. Karl Schray
Fr. Karl Schray examines an ancient cross at St. Finian's 6th century monastery ruins on an island off Killarney.
Photos courtesy of Fr. Karl Schray
Fr. Karl Schray examines an ancient cross at St. Finian's 6th century monastery ruins on an island off Killarney.
In a reversal of history, a veteran Oregon pastor has gone to priest-poor Ireland as a missionary.  

Father Karl Schray, just retired as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in North Bend, will serve on weekends at a parish in Dublin for the next year.

"I wanted to help pay back Ireland for all those missionaries who came to the U.S. and Oregon in years past," says Father Schray. "I wanted to show my appreciation."

Ireland, supplier of priests to the world until the mid-20th century, is now experiencing a shortage. Ireland's national seminary has 70 students and the average age of priests in the once-famously Catholic nation is 63.

If trends continue, the number of priests in Ireland is expected to fall from 4,700 to just 1,500 by 2028, according to the London-based newspaper The Independent.

As for Father Schray, he wanted to remain active. He also has called upon an old wish to become a missionary. As a young man considering seminary, he told his pastor that he would like to explore that option. The pastor told him that Oregon is mission territory and convinced the lad to serve in the Archdiocese of Portland.    

Father Schray has visited the home towns of several Irish priests who came to serve in Oregon decades ago. Fathers Cathal Brennan and Patrick Kiernan have both died.  

Father Schray, who has some Irish heritage, has traveled north to Donegal to see the homeland of his people, the Dohertys. He also has presided at Mass at the Marian shrine at Knock in County Mayo.

Archbishop Alexander Sample gave permission for the move and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin accepted.

The parish where Father Schray will serve is in an area of northern Dublin that was developed 40 years ago. The single parish has five grade schools. A former teacher at North Catholic High School in Portland, he will be a chaplain at two of the schools and will say funerals at the church.