Msgr. Richard Paperini delivers his last homily as pastor of St. Philip Neri.
Msgr. Richard Paperini delivers his last homily as pastor of St. Philip Neri.
BEAVERTON — As Msgr. Richard Paperini unpacked at St. John Vianney retirement community here, he felt grateful for those he met, served and collaborated with during 43 years of priesthood.

“The people are what’s most important,” said the 70-year-old priest, who retired last month. “I am very grateful for my priesthood and I am just as grateful for the people of God. I really enjoyed the people. I have been lucky. They have been so good to me.”

In his final homily as pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland June 28, he told worshippers: “My friends, you are of infinite worth to God.”

The feeling is mutual.

Dozens of cars rolled past to wish Msgr. Paperini well after that last liturgy. It was the pandemic version of a goodbye bash. Parish groups wrote messages that staff posted on signs all over the property.

On a red placard near the driveway, the liturgy committee wrote: “If you never preached another word of Scripture we would know you are inspired by God because you live it.”

“He brings people together,” said Debra Guthrie, administrative assistant at St. Philip Neri, which Father Paperini is leaving sooner than planned because of non-life-threatening health issues. Guthrie recalled that she and Msgr. Paperini would laugh often and that he helped her feel trusted and empowered.

Many in the farewell parade were members of his former parishes.

“He is so appreciative. He builds a team,” said Mary Ann Holliman, former business manager at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, where Msgr. Paperini was pastor 2012-18. “He would convince you you could do the job.”

Holliman explained that Msgr. Paperini saw one of his chief tasks as what he called friendraising.

During the farewell Mass at St. Philip Neri, the reader choked up when delivering a prayer of thanks to the monsignor. “May we follow his example of humble service to each other,” she said.

Msgr. Paperini thanked parishioners in turn. “There are a lot of people who do a lot of good in this parish,” he said. “I have enjoyed my two years here because of you and how good you are.”

His last homily was like many for the past 43 years — deeply engaged with Scripture.

It may not have been intentional, but parts of the homily did double-duty, explaining what Jesus taught and describing the life of a priest:

“All our loyalties are meant to be loyalties to God,” Msgr. Paperini said.

“Giving up all for Christ’s sake takes tremendous love.”

“We are meant to reach for the stars and follow Christ at all costs.”

Most mornings through his priesthood, Msgr. Paperini has risen and spent time with Scripture. “Every priest needs to be a man of the church. He also needs to be a man of the Gospel,” he said. “Doing that, I would feel the call to deeper conversion.”

Some of the most meaningful moments of priesthood for Msgr. Paperini came at funerals, when people encounter ultimate truths. “I hope I did something that helped people not only deal with their grief but brought them to a deep connection,” he said.

In addition to parish life, he served at Mount Angel Seminary for 19 years, including a dozen as president-rector. That’s a job given only to men who have earned deep trust.

“I think we did some good,” he said of his seminary years, crediting his team.

His other ministry has included service at St. Henry in Gresham, St. Charles and Central Catholic in Portland, St. Mary of the Valley in Beaverton, St. Jude in Eugene and St. Luke in Woodburn.

edl@catholicsentinel.org