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Father Jim Brinkman to retire from Immaculate Conception

Pastor Jim Brinkman is pictured saying a prayer during a Memorial Day event this year in New Richmond. (Photo by Micheal Foley)

Eleven years ago, Pastor Jim Brinkman came back to his home parish, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in New Richmond, to become its pastor. Now, 11 years later, Brinkman will retire at the end of June when he will move on to spend more time with family, sailing and helping with church renewals and retreats.

“It will be good to be retired, but it will different for sure,” Brinkman said. “It is a slower pace, but that means more time reading and being open to what God wants me to do. Priests never retire. They just slow down and shift priorities to what they can handle.”

A retirement celebration will be held from 1-4 p.m. on June 28 at Immaculate Conception to send Brinkman, 69, off into retirement. Community members are invited to come with stories to share as the church celebrates and roasts Brinkman. Hors ‘d'oeuvres, cake, refreshments and coffee will be served. There will also be a beer and wine bar.

Brinkman’s journey

Brinkman was born and raised in New Richmond, where he attended St. Mary School and New Richmond High School before attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Following college, Brinkman joined the religious order at Notre Dame for a year and half before leaving to go into military. Brinkman spent three years in the military, including 18 months in Vietnam. After getting out of the military, Brinkman went into public relations and advertising for seven years.

“After all of that, I felt like God was calling me to do something different with my life, so after a period of discerning I went back to school at Milwaukee Sacred Heart Seminary,” Brinkman said. “I was there for four years of school and then I interned at St. Joe’s Hospital in St. Paul and St. Francis Parish in Merrill, Wis. I was ordained in this church here on Aug. 9, 1981.”

Before starting his 11 years at Immaculate Conception, as well as St. Patrick’s Parish, Brinkman spent three years in River Falls at St. Bridget’s, two years at St. Patrick’s in Hudson, five years at St. Mary’s in Rhinelander, two years in Birchwood and then he was sent to the Webster Parish. Following his stops at those churches, Brinkman took a sabbatical for three months before spending nine years at St. Anne’s in Somerset.

“I almost didn’t come to New Richmond following my time at St. Anne,” Brinkman said. “I was slated to go to Hudson and back to St. Pat’s, but at the last minute they changed their minds and asked me how I felt about going to New Richmond. It was neat to come back to my home parish where I knew I would stay until I retired.”

Although coming back to New Richmond was exciting for Brinkman, it wasn’t exactly the same town he knew when he had left 25 years before.

“I came back for a weekend to help out while the pastor was away and I was surprised at how many people I did no know,” Brinkman said. “New Richmond has changed a lot over the last 25 years. It is not the same town it used to be and is more of a big town, big city.”

When the time is write

For a long time, Brinkman wasn’t sure when he would retire or when he would know when he was ready to take that next step in his life.

“A while back, I had asked one of our priests who had been retired for a while how you know when you are ready to retire. He laughed and said, ‘You’ll know.’” Brinkman said. “I thought that was a strange response at the time, but he was right. About a year ago, it got to be more overwhelming. You reach that age where you can’t multi-task as well and you get tired easier. It just catches up to you.”

Although Brinkman will be retired at the end of June, he won’t be done with his work in the Catholic Church.

“No priest really retires, we just semi-retire,” Brinkman said. “We no longer have a parish we are assigned to any more. So I’m going to take a little time off, do a little discerning and then get prepared to do parish renewals and retreats.”

Brinkman is moving to Clear Lake, Wis., where he will live in the rectory, which has been empty for a while.

“Some of the highlights of my time here has to be watching the parish grow, getting to know people and being involved in the community,” Brinkman said. “Really there are just so many highlights to mention. The school and watching the kids grow up has really been special too.”

Along with doing parish renewals and retreats, Brinkman will be spending time visiting his siblings in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Seattle, who are all retired as well.

“I also bought a sailboat two years ago and I intend to spend time on the lake sailing,” Brinkman said. “I really enjoy that a lot. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I will take friends out there and have a good time.”

Cornelius the tedding bear will be joining Brinkman in retirement at the end of June as well. Cornelius was made for Brinkman 32 years ago by nuns. He was used mostly for children’s liturgies at whatever church Brinkman was currently pastor at.

“Today I still get people who come up to me in all those other parishes I’ve been at and ask how Cornelius is,” Brinkman said. “There were even news articles written on him years ago.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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