NORTH BEND — It’s one of the final times Father Karl Schray will pack up the books in his office. He has packed most, but has left a few special editions for his successor at Holy Redeemer Parish here.
One of the first times Father Schray packed up his office was after North Catholic High School burned down in July 1970. His entire personal library was sopping wet after firefighters stopped the blaze, but he salvaged as many books as he could. He still carries with him a few of those books.
He keeps in touch with a few of the students as well.
This year Father Schray marks his retirement, which coincides with his 48th anniversary of ordination.
For the past 16 years, the priest has served at Holy Redeemer in Southern Oregon parish, where he is known to dabble in everything and be a stranger to none.
“We can't possibly name all the things he's done,” said parishioner Bernie Swanson. “It's been a privilege working with him and being guided by him during his time at Holy Redeemer.”
Some parishioners began weeping in June, volunteer secretary Linda Wingerath said, before their beloved priest had even left. It’s the pastor’s compassionate and warm comportment that endears him to to his flock, she said.
“He’s especially good with the sick and the dying,” Wingerath said. “People who aren’t even Catholic call him for funerals or to be by their bedsides.”
In his time serving in the Archdiocese of Portland, Father Schray has served at a handful of Portland-area parishes, Salem, and then was transferred to Holy Name Parish in Coquille and St. Anne Parish in Grants Pass. The library at St. Anne School is named after Father Schray, who helped open to the school during his time in Grants Pass.
Father Schray has spent many hours ministering to the sick. He celebrates Mass every other week for prisoners at Shutter Creek Correctional Institution.
The first task of retirement, Father Schray said, is to allow his vocal cords to heal; they were damaged this past year after a bad respiratory infection. Then he hopes to travel – he will visit family in Germany and pray at the graves of two departed friends who are buried in Ireland.
Upon his return, Father Schray will let the Lord guide his way.
“I don’t know where I’m going to settle down,” he said. “I’m just tackling one thing at a time.” For now, he just wants to finish cleaning out his office.
Members of Holy Redeemer will throw the pastor a retirement party from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 23. All are welcome.