Larry Clark and Fr. Joseph Heuberger discuss a project said to cut heating and cooling costs by 80 percent at St. Patrick Church in Toledo in 1984. (Sentinel archives)
Larry Clark and Fr. Joseph Heuberger discuss a project said to cut heating and cooling costs by 80 percent at St. Patrick Church in Toledo in 1984. (Sentinel archives)
Father Joseph Heuberger, a descendant of early Catholic settlers in the Sublimity district, was ordained in 1970 at St. Boniface Church in Sublimity by Archbishop Robert Dwyer.

Father Heuberger, born in 1944, celebrated his first Mass there, in the church he’d attended as a child growing up on acres of farmland. Father Heuberger cared for chickens and the family’s other livestock, learning how to build chicken coops and other facets of husbandry from his carpenter father.

He traveled just 20 miles north to attend Mount Angel Seminary high school. He went to St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, and was a transitional deacon at St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland before his ordination.

He served as associate pastor at St. James Parish in McMinnville and at St. Matthew Parish in Hillsboro. In 1981 he became pastor of the now-shuttered St. Patrick Parish in Toledo, just east of Newport. While there, he worked with parishioners to weatherize the church, keeping it cooler in the summer and holding heat better in the winter, saving in energy bills.

From 1987 to 1988 he served as a parochial vicar at St. John in Oregon City and at St. Cecilia in Beaverton, moving to Immaculate Heart Parish in North Portland as pastor in 1988.

The easy-going priest adapted well to his new post at an urban parish. He worked closely with a youth minister there to offer middle school and high school students an avenue to faith. Father Heuberger said of his time at Immaculate Heart that he’d learned the value of partnering with staff. “A pastor can’t do everything,” he noted.

In 1994, Father Heuberger became pastor of Visitation Parish in Verboort (Forest Grove). Florence Markee Crop, a longtime parishioner there, said Father Heuberger had become well-loved during his tenure. “He is stupendous,” she said. “He relates so well to the young people.”

Father Heuberger’s childhood fondness for raising chickens and turkeys became possible in Verboort. He moved the birds into a coop behind the church, giving the children a destination as they waited for their parents to finish visiting.

Father Heuberger has a quiet humor; he doesn’t guffaw at his own jokes but the quips are there for anyone listening. Consider his reasoning for excusing staff and parish council members from a 1999 reconciliation service. They had just finished the budget, “penance enough” in his thinking.

In 2003, he moved to St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salem, again serving as pastor and, after the city changed its ordinance on chickens, again caring for fowl.

“Some people have dogs,” he told the Sentinel in 2011. “I have chickens.”

In addition to his work as a pastor, Father Heuberger has been a presenter at Engaged Encounter for many years.

His final post leading a parish came about when he stepped in at Our Lady of Sorrows because of the illness and death of Father Ron Millican in 2019.

Father Heuberger now lives at the St. John Vianney, Beaverton, residence for priests in senior status.