The two priests take another photo after their day’s exercise.
The two priests take another photo after their day’s exercise.
It’s long been a challenge for busy parish priests to stay toned and healthy. The workload and prayer time make exercise difficult to fit in. Generous parishioners bring calorie-laden casseroles and platters of cinnamon rolls.

The pandemic has exacerbated the problem, as everyone stays at home more and moves less.

But some priests have met the test with resolve — and sweat.

At Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, two monsignors work out most days. Msgr. John Cihak, the pastor, and Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, in residence as the Archdiocese of Portland director of divine worship, have a gym in the garage.

“We follow the CrossFit regime,” said Msgr. O’Connor, referring not to Christian-themed exercise, but to a system of high-intensity interval training. Practitioners cross genres, lifting, squatting, pushing, sprinting and pulling in energetic bursts. Burpees — a series of bends, pushups, stretches and jumps — are a CrossFit staple.

“It keeps us fit and healthy,” Msgr. O’Connor said.

Father Don Gutmann, pastor of St. Clare Parish in Southwest Portland, has an adventurous daily routine. He does 20 minutes of contemplative prayer each morning in the quiet waters of the Willamette River between Ross Island and East Island.

“There’s no one around and lots of fresh air so I don’t need to wear a mask, and it’s super peaceful and beautiful at 6:30 in the morning,” Father Gutmann said. “This time of year I go for a quick swim in the river after I finish my prayer time. I leave the river at peace and refreshed.”

Father John Henderson, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Tigard, sees his doctor regularly every six months. He and Father Scott Baier, parochial vicar, look out for each other’s health.

“I exercise regularly and take long walks with Father Scott,” said Father Henderson. “I even had the chance to get back on my bike. I have decided that I need to keep to my regular schedule — pray, head to the office for work, eat three meals. I am not going to let this pandemic swallow me.”