Retired priest: “I’m just being present”: Father David Brinkmoeller travels, volunteers, but at a slower pace
Father Brinkmoeller, 71, left Cincinnati for Trinidad so he could spend a few weeks this spring assisting the Living Water Community, a Catholic charismatic missionary group. Living Water’s ministries include a hospice, feeding the poor, caring for the elderly, prison visits, refugee assistance, a developmental program for teenage street dwellers, and development of a television and internet catechesis, Father Brinkmoeller said.
His plan was to help “with many ministries, any way I can,” he said. “If it works, I’ll go back for a month or two each year.
“This new chapter in my life is a chance to meet people who are much poorer than I’ve known. I want to learn what poor people experience about life and love.”
By that he also means people closer to home “who are poor in different ways.” He’ll soon start visiting Ohio inmates on behalf of Kairos Prison Ministry, an international Christian organization. In March, he began an assignment as a volunteer chaplain at Dayton Children’s Hospital.
At the hospital, “you see parents and kids so relieved that things worked out, and of course the opposite, the tragic part,” Father Brinkmoeller said. “I don’t have any magic. I can’t heal. I’m there just to be with them and bring the Lord to them.”
He retired last summer after 45 years as an active priest, the last dozen as pastor of two Dayton parishes, St. Helen and Immaculate Conception. He now lives at the Transfiguration Spiritual Center for Renewal in West Milton, along with other retired priests.
Father Brinkmoeller grew up in Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood. Ordained in 1971, he served as a parish priest for about eight years before starting work with the archdiocese’s Office of Priestly Formation. In 1987, he moved to Washington, D.C. to direct the Office of Priestly Life and Ministry for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He returned in 1992 to become pastor of Ascension Catholic Church, Kettering, then moved to St. Helen’s in 2004.
During his pastorship, St. Helen’s was among 13 pilot parishes for the local One Faith, One Hope, One Love campaign. Parishioners exceeded their local goal under his leadership.
“I was very committed,” he said. “The fund is very important. I went to Archbishop Schnurr about four years ago saying we have got to do something to help people with school tuition. I’m not saying that’s why they did it, just saying that’s one reason I was committed to it. I’m very enthused about the fund and especially what it’s doing for kids and poor people and the rest.”
He points to the campaign’s assistance for Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley, which has provided Father Brinkmoeller with volunteer opportunities. CSSMV “is so helpful,” he said. “They’re developing so many things because of the fund.”
The campaign also helps support retired priests, many of them as active as Father Brinkmoeller.
He still helps out at parishes, celebrating Masses and otherwise assisting. But retirement has allowed him to pursue a range of personal interests like gardening.
“Retiring gives me a chance to do those things,” he said. “I’m going to the opera tonight. I didn’t have time before. Shakespeare I was always too stupid to understand, so I got some DVDs from the library and I watch the plays over and over.”
As for his various volunteer projects, “I’m trying one thing at a time to see what works out. I’m only retired since July. I’m gradually developing a new life.” He doesn’t wish, however, to give the impression he’s still busy as ever.
“I’m so grateful for those 45 years as a parish priest,” he said. “It’s such a unique way to live.
“But I’ll never let myself get as busy as before. Since retiring, I can’t tell you how sweet it is to get enough rest. I’m 71 years old. I’m past the point of solving people’s problems. I’m just being present and seeing if God works through that.”.