INDEPENDENCE — It's retirement in name only for Msgr. Carl Gimpl, the 84-year-old priest who hardly seems to have taken a breather since he was ordained in 1955 at age 26.
As of July, he'll take up residence at historic Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Jordan, in a rural area southeast of Salem. In addition to celebrating Mass there, he will continue an eight-year ministry and preside regularly for inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary. The warden begged him to stay on the job.
"It keeps you out of trouble," the priest says.
The straight-talking Msgr. Gimpl has served for the last dozen years at St. Patrick Parish in Independence, even learning some Spanish in his golden years.
"We're going to miss him," says parish staffer Linda Skog. With a laugh that denotes skepticism, Skog says the idea is that the monsignor will slow down while in residence in Jordan.
Young Carl grew up in Eugene near St. Mary Church. When an altar server was needed lickety-split, he was there. After he graduated from the parish’s high school, he planned to enlist in the Army Air Corps.
But after a day of work at a local cannery, the would-be pilot received a message from his pastor, Father Francis Leipzig. The boy visited the priest the next day.
“I think you’d better go to seminary,” Father Leipzig declared.
Though at the time he really wanted to fly airplanes, he considered the need for priests and his admiration for his pastor and the kind and gentle assistant priest, Father Louis Sohler.
In the fall, he headed to Mount Angel College and slowly came to realize his vocation. He was ordained in Portland’s cathedral.
Father Gimpl continued to yearn for the wild blue yonder and asked Archbishop Edward Howard if he could become an Air Force chaplain. The archbishop instead sent him to work at a new Catholic summer camp in the Mount Hood foothills.
Dutifully and cheerfully, the priest stayed in camp and youth sports ministry for 20 years. He chopped wood, built A-frame cabins and corrected teen counselors who veered out of line. The work taught him to be patient.
“When things went really well, kids were enjoying themselves and growing,” he told the Catholic Sentinel in 2011. “That was beautiful.”
He aided in parishes the whole while, saying Mass, giving counsel, hearing confessions, visiting the sick.
He later became a parish priest, serving for long stints, including more than a decade at St. Joseph Parish in Salem, one of the busiest and largest Catholic churches in Oregon.
In addition to parish work, Msgr. Gimpl spent many hours at the Archdiocese of Portland office, going over annulment requests and other matters of canon law. The work is tedious, but it's important for people that it be done, he figured.