“Do priests go to heaven?”
Alvina Kaimann was taken aback by her 10-year-old son’s unusual question.
She said yes.
“Then that’s what I need to do!” he told her.
“From then on, I was pretty well set on being a priest,” said Father Jerry Kaimann, who is noting his 50th priestly anniversary this year.
“I’ve always felt like this is where I’m supposed to be,” he said.
The current pastor of St. Bonaventure parish in Marceline and canonical pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Brookfield believes the Priesthood suits him because he enjoys being of service to other people.
“God has blessed me, very much so, and I want to share that with others,” he stated.
A bridge for all
Fr. Kaimann sees the ministerial Priesthood as “a bridge that brings people to God and God to people.”
With and for Christ, “my purpose is to be that connecting link for everybody — not just my parishioners or certain people, but everyone,” he said.
Half a century ago, he would look up to the pastors of this diocese and think, “They’ve already done everything! By the time I’m a pastor, there won’t be anything left to do.”
“That certainly changed!” he said.
All four of the Kaimann siblings are celebrating milestones this year.
“My older sister has been a Franciscan nun for 60 years, my brother is 50 years married, and my younger sister is 40 years married,” said Fr. Kaimann.
They all grew up on a farm just outside Old Monroe, in the northern part of the St. Louis archdiocese.
They all had Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg, Indiana, as teachers, and Immaculate Conception parish was the center of their family life.
“My parents were such that whenever the church doors were open, we were there,” Fr. Kaimann recalled. “Whenever there was something to do around the church, we were always there — and for the most part, it was our machinery and tractor!”
He and his brother were used to being altar servers at Mass and various liturgical events throughout the year.
“In my family, the Church was very important and priests were very special,” he said. “Along with that, going to heaven was important.”
First and third
After grade school, young Jerry went to Hannibal to attend St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary for high school students considering the Priesthood.
From there, he went on to Cardinal Glennon College, Kenrick Seminary and the Saint Louis University School of Divinity, all in St. Louis.
He pursued his formation with steady confidence that God one day would make him a priest.
“I was never concerned about whether I’d be allowed to continue on or not,” he recalled. “I figured that if I worked hard, I’d eventually make it. And I didn’t mind working.”
He served as a transitional deacon at St. Peter parish in Jefferson City.
On March 14, 1970, in Immaculate Conception Church in Old Monroe, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe of Jefferson City, now deceased, ordained him to the Holy Priesthood.
He was the third priest to be ordained from his parish and the first priest to be ordained by Bishop McAuliffe.
Fr. Kaimann looks back upon his newly ordained self as “pretty idealistic and maybe a little naïve.”
He served first as an associate pastor: for three months at St. Mary parish in Glasgow, three years at what is now Holy Family parish in Hannibal; two years at Cathedral of St. Joseph parish in Jefferson City; and two years at Sacred Heart parish in Columbia.
He has been serving as a pastor since 1977: first of St. Joseph parish in Canton, Shrine of St. Patrick parish in St. Patrick and the former Notre Dame mission in LaGrange; then of Ss. Peter & Paul parish in Boonville and St. Joseph parish in Fayette; then of Immaculate Conception parish in Montgomery City and sacramental minister of St. Patrick parish in Jonesburg.
He became pastor of St. Bonaventure parish in Marceline on July 1, 2002.
For his first two years there, he was also pastor of St. Joseph parish in Hurricane Branch.
Since 2004, he has been pastor of the Marceline parish and canonical pastor of the parish in Brookfield.
“Whenever you go into a parish, you know there’s going to be a lot of good people,” he said. “If you’re open to them and good to them, they’ll support you and work with you.”
Fr. Kaimann learned the importance of taking time to pray every day.
He and Father Bill Forst, now deceased, were both assigned to Cathedral of St. Joseph parish.
“And I noticed how he went to church every morning before Mass to just pray,” Fr. Kaimann recalled. “And I said, ‘I need to do that.’ And I started doing it and have continued all my life.”
Another important discipline for him has been running.
“I’ve been a runner all my life,” he said. “I started when I was in college. I’ve always done it early in the morning. I found that it has been great for self-discipline and it’s been a really important thing for me.”
He also enjoys bicycling and fishing for “whatever’s biting.”
Fr. Kaimann said the Priesthood hasn’t always been easy, “nor has my life always been smooth. But I do believe that it is in the struggles that we grow.”
Those struggles help “our humanity and encourage us to trust God,” he said.
He believes a parish must be a Christ-centered community “that reaches out to all people, especially those that have drifted away and those that don’t know what God is offering.”
Such a parish “is welcoming, accepting and willing to walk with (people) as they grow in their relationship with God,” he stated.
His approach to ministry is to be compassionate while encouraging people and challenging them to be better.
He enjoys working as part of a team and believes the Church needs to involve more laypeople in ministry.
He believes that pastors specifically need to empower people to minister and reach out to those in need.
“I’m not worried about losing my identity as a priest,” he stated. “There will always be a place for a priest, someone to be that community sign of faith.”
He has served in collaborative ministry with religious sisters through most of his time as a pastor and appreciates the wisdom and perspective they bring.
“One thing I’ve learned is there’s always plenty of work to do,” he said. “Someone might not always do the work the way I would do it, and that’s okay. And I’m consistently amazed at how God works through them.”
“Trust in God”
One thing Fr. Kaimann loves about being a priest is “the people.”
“My most important thing is the faith of the people,” he said, “that they follow in faith and trust in the Lord.”
He stays grounded and avoids burnout by attending to his own relationship with the Lord “in order to be more like Him and being open to the Spirit forming and changing me.”
He believes the decades have helped make him humble and more trusting in the Lord.
“It’s all about God, about God’s plan,” he said. “It’s all God’s doing.”
A new season
Fr. Kaimann is grateful for many things, especially the great home life he experienced while growing up, and the gift of these 50 years of Priesthood.
He will retire from being a pastor on July 1. He plans to move to the rectory of St. Joseph parish in Palmyra and help out with Masses there.
For his jubilee, he asks for prayers for God to help him “grow more in the likeness of the Lord.”
He realizes that the clarity he experienced in knowing and answering his priestly calling is not necessarily the norm.
“It can be frightening if you think you’re being called and you don’t know if you’re up to it,” he noted. “But if you trust in the Lord, He will be there for you and you will find peace in the midst of whatever is happening.
“So do not be afraid!”