Msgr. Don Buxman celebrated his 50th jubilee with a new beard grown during quarantine.
Msgr. Don Buxman celebrated his 50th jubilee with a new beard grown during quarantine.
In 1994, a miffed reader wrote to the Catholic Sentinel. Msgr. Don Buxman had been omitted in a story about St. Francis Parish in Sherwood, where the priest had once been pastor.

“His real and lasting legacy was his strong leadership in building a caring parish family,” the parishioner wrote. “His vision of Church stretched far beyond mere structures and church buildings right into the hearts of God’s people.”

Msgr. Buxman’s ministry has been marked by big, joyful, attentive relationships. “I wanted to make the parish into a family,” the tall friendly priest said days after the 50th anniversary of his ordination. “As a new priest, when you move into a new family, you’d better find out what the culture is. Get to know the folks. That is so important.”

He was one of seven children, and the Buxman family had moved into St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland in 1952. Soon, Father Dan Reynolds arrived and became a hero. “He was always there, and cordial as could be — a gentleman plus,” Father Buxman recalled.

Father Reynolds took groups of boys to tour Mount Angel Seminary and watch baseball games. Don was inspired and signed up for seminary high school. After freshman year, he still had questions so transferred to Central Catholic and got a job in a grocery store.

But as he matured, he knew God was still calling. After graduating from Central Catholic, he was accepted for priestly studies and felt confident in his calling. Like most seminarians, he struggled at times. Once, he went to the seminary chapel to chew out God a bit. He wept deeply. Then he felt a friendly tap on his shoulder. Embarrassed, he wiped his face before turning around to see — no one. “I have never doubted God’s presence,” Msgr. Buxman said.

He has served at St. Peter in Newberg, Queen of Peace

in Salem, St. Mary in Eugene, St. Francis in Sherwood, St. John in Oregon City and Christ the King in Milwaukie. He learned early to trust pastoral councils. “None of us knows everything,” he said.

He also learned to preach from an outline in his head, not a written text. That helped him speak more personally.

On a visit to the home of his twin brother, he heard there’d been a sudden death down the block. He walked over to help and saw the lifeless body of a man on the floor of the garage with the daughter sitting alongside. Msgr. Buxman began to speak with her and was surprised when she told him she found comfort in remembering a homily he had given a decade before.

Msgr. Buxman is a loyal friend. When he was vocations director for the archdiocese in the 1980s, he became chaplain for the Serra Club, a vocations promotion group. He remained in the role for 33 years.

One day in Sherwood, he discovered that a couple — Adolph and Vida Eppich — had been married on the same day he was ordained. They have been celebrating the anniversaries together for 40 years.

In 2011, he agreed to serve as priest moderator at St. Rita in Portland and as Vicar for Clergy, one of the tougher jobs in the archdiocese. He retired from that post in 2014.

Msgr. Buxman’s prayer life has only deepened. “I am talking to God all day long,” he said, urging people to be fully themselves before the Lord. “If you are upset with God, tell him. If anyone can understand, he can.”