Msgr. Robert Gipson 50th Anniversary of Priesthood
It is with great joy that I share with you my fifty years as a Priest.
As I look back over these past fifty years, I am filled with gratitude to Almighty God for the gift of my vocation. It is truly a gift to be called by God to serve as His minister to the people of God. I have always been very happy in my ministry and look forward to continuing that ministry, even in my retirement.
My ministry began in May of 1962. I was assigned to St. Charles in North Hollywood for seven years. It was there that I learned the practical side of being a priest. We did a lot of door to door census taking. There was a regular assignment to a classroom in the school where I taught religion twice a week. I was not good at controlling a class of 60 students – yes 60! I learned quickly that you had to take a firm stand – no “mister nice guy.” Also, there were a lot of rest homes and a hospital to visit plus Communion to the sick. We did not have Eucharistic Ministers to the Sick in those days. I had 15 homes to visit with the Eucharist every week. There was a Youth Group called, in those days, A Chi Rho Club. It was a very large parish so we would have between 150 and 200 teenagers at our meetings. It was really great and I thoroughly enjoyed those Sunday evenings with them. It was a great seven years!
My next assignment was for only one year at St. John the Baptist de la Salle in Granada Hills. Most of my time there was spent with the youth of the parish. There were 5,000 families and a lot of young people. I taught religion to the 7th Grade, both in the Religious Education program and in the school. There was also a very large youth group that met every Sunday evening. It was a delightful year, but the Lord had other plans for me.
In August of 1970, I was asked by our Archbishop to be chaplain at a large county facility in Downey. Rancho Los Amigos Hospital had 1,350 beds at that time and needed a full-time chaplain. Rancho was a rehabilitation center for those with permanent disabilities. We specialized in care for paraplegics and quadriplegics, victims of multiple sclerosis and dystrophy, stroke and head trauma. This assignment was most satisfying but also very draining. I really loved working with all these people, but often I would go back to the rectory at St. Raymond’s in Downey emotionally exhausted. We had a lot of young people, mostly spinal cord injuries, and they would have to lean to live the rest of their lives with this disability. It was really hard on them and I had to try to support and encourage them. There was daily Mass at the hospital and two Masses on Sunday. I also helped out at St. Raymond’s where I lived during my nine years of hospital work.
In 1979, the pastor of St. Raymond’s wanted to retire. Our Archbishop, Cardinal Manning, called me on a Saturday evening and asked me if I would consider taking his place. Cardinal Manning said that I was long enough in hospital work. I remained as Pastor of St. Raymond’s until 1998. As Pastor, I had to learn a new role. It was exciting. We, as a church, had moved full swing into lay ministry. Developing these ministries was a great challenge, but also a great joy. There were also buildings to care for. We had two major building projects – offices, a conference room, and a new hall. The church was totally renovated inside. There were administrative duties as well. Of course there were all the other things that go along with parish life – school, religious ed., youth groups, and the many other groups that go into an active parish life. My time at St. Raymond’s was fulfilling and enjoyable.
In 1989, Cardinal Mahony felt that a move would be good for me. I went to St. James the Less in La Crescenta for eight years. This brought yet new challenges. We had to meld a Korean community with a long standing, middle class, Anglo community. By the grace of God, we slowly met the challenge. There were, of course, all the other aspects of parish life to keep vibrant. These were enjoyable and fruitful years for me.
In 2006, when I turned 70, it seemed like the time for someone else to take over the helm. I asked to resign as Pastor and go back to parish work as an Associate – Senior Priest. My request was granted.
July 1, 2006, I was assigned to Assumption as a Senior Priest. For five years, I spent glorious days with the People of God here. Fr. Gerard was kind and attentive to my needs. We had worked together at St. James – only I was Pastor and he was our Associate. My time here was spent with Liturgy, visiting the sick, and class Masses along with other priestly duties – Masses, Confessions, sick calls, answering requests for blessings and just listening. July 1, 2011, at the age of 75, I retired and moved to the desert where I am still active helping at local parishes.
My heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your prayers, support, and love. You are in my prayers. My fifty years as a priest have been a great joy and blessing. Thank you, Lord, for your gift to me!
Love and Prayers,