Married priest George Sherman died September 27, 2001. Cardinal Roger Mahony,
Msgr. Pete Nugent, Father Charlie Knapp and Father Joe Greeley, who were seminary
students with George, concelebrated the memorial Mass at St. John Vianney Chapel
in Los Angeles on October 10, 2001. Msgr. Pete Nugent gave the homily. Cardinal
Mahony and married priests Terry Halloran and Gerry Fallon gave eulogies at the end
of the Mass. Walt Kelly, Hal DeLisle, Mike Dunne, Ralph Platz, Bill DuBay,
Phil Berryman, Charlie Ara, Don Reiman, Bob Delaney and John McFadden, mentioned
in Terry's eulogy, are also priests no longer in official ministry. Others
mentioned in the text and photos -- Ken Wenker, Serge Beltran, Don Carlos,
Charlie Blaney, Bob Ridley, Tom Cotton, Frank Zinns, Joe Phelan, Msgr. Dan
Lopez, Father Frank Buckman, Jim Houston, Howard Platz and John Gremer --
were students with "Sherm" at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, California.
Bill DuBay's photos are at
Bill DuBay's photos are athttp://www.impact-information.com/LASems
From Bill DuBay, October 6-7, 2001:
I arrived about 2:00 p.m. in Colorado Springs. Ken Wenker picked me up and started to fill me in on his story and the history of Colorado Springs. The town is nestled against the Rockies and is home to the Air Force Academy and NORAD, deep in Cheyenne mountain. Because we had some time to waste, he drove me around the Garden of the Gods, one of the many parks run by the city. It has some great rock formations. Nearby Pikes Peak is also part of the city park system.
After the tour, he took me to his home to meet his beautiful wife, Naamah, and his son Paul. We were not expecting the surprise party waiting us, celebrating his 61st birthday with his whole family.
The next morning, Sunday, I accompanied Ken, and his two sons, Peter and Paul, and Paul's daughter Sophie on a hike near Ken's house. About 4:00 in the afternoon, Ken, Naamah, the lamb that Naamah had spent the day cooking, and I left for Westcliffe.
Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, where the Shermans live, are two tiny Western towns cuddled up to one another on the valley floor. Ken remarked that the political climate in the area was to the right of Rush Limbaugh. He said it was his impression that the locals initially found Sherm's manner grumpy, but quickly realized it was just an expression of his informality and complete lack of pretense.
We passed Sherm's house (very stylish western/pueblo) sitting very lonely--no trees around--on the valley floor about a quarter mile from the highway, but we did not stop. It was pretty overcast when we arrived at Morgan's Hall for the memorial potluck dinner. Sherm's wife Helen and his daughter Laurel greeted us. They seemed to be doing fine. There was a bar set up in one corner with lots of wine and beer available.
There was a card table for signing the guest book. Laurel had set up a display of Sherm's photos. The people and the food started arriving fast and furious. Maybe about 100 people showed up, mostly locals who had known Sherm. Helen's two sisters and brother were also there. There were a couple of Sherm's former business associates.
I talked to a lot of people and got the impression that Sherm and his family were very active in the community. Sherm served on the hospital board, was active in the county's master plan, and often helped different groups with his photography.
I asked a local, Ray Koch, how he met Sherm. "Through my wife, he said, "who met Sherm's wife at a knitting group." Ray grew up in Westcliffe, was very Catholic, told me a lot about the old times, and had thought the world of Sherm. "Sherm had cancer and I have Parkinson's and we had a kind of rapport. Once he took me on a hike. 'With your Parkinson's and my one lung, we should do pretty good on this,' he told me."
After eating and drinking a while, the guests were asked to offer their comments about Sherm. About ten people got up and said a few words, honoring Sherm's habit of being a man of few words. Many commented about his ability to get right to the point, letting the chips fall where they may. "Sherm was never known for his tact," said one gentleman. Over and over again, people remarked how easy it was to get to know Sherm. "In a few minutes," one said, "it was like you knew him all your life."
Ken got up and told about the e-mail he received from Sherm, once Sherm had found out he lived in nearby Colorado Springs. All it said was, "Get your a-- up here. Sherm. Silver Cliff, phone number." I got up and told the story of Sherm the Indian dancer at camp. I was really choked up. I apologized for never having visited Sherm in the context of his family and the environment he loved so much.
On LASems, we know Sherm as a keen intellect who could probe deeply. He was also a person who embraced life vigorously. He had the unusual ability to use that physical exhuberance to make everyone he contacted more comfortable with themselves.
Laurel was sitting on the side fighting back the tears. I can't imagine the hole that Sherm has left in their lives. Helen graciously thanked everyone for coming. At 8:00 pm, Ken, Naamah, and I took our leave and drove back to Colorado Springs. This morning at 6:00, Ken took me to the airport.
Eulogy, St. John Vianney Chapel, October 10, 2001:
Sherm, I'm your admiring friend Terry Halloran. 48 years ago we were both students here at the junior seminary. Later, our years at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo overlapped, 1956 to 1960. Whenever the student body gathered for musical entertainment, you played the drums -- with skill and enthusiasm. We worked together two summers at Camp Junipero Serra. Some of the other counselors were Don Carlos, Bill DuBay, Hal DeLisle, Joe Buchanan, Walt Kelly, Dick Hammer and Phil Berryman. You ran the Indian Lore program. Campers learned to clothe and paint themselves like Native American braves. You taught them to dance toe-heel to the beat of hand-crafted drums.
Sherm, we each spent a summer month at Montezuma Seminary. So did Ed Johnson, Bill DuBay, Pat Thompson, Manny Moreno, Walt Kelly and many others. You not only achieved fluency in Spanish, you invented new phrases like "eso es fino conmigo" and "tu idea no trabaja." At Saturday breakfast Spanish tables, you passed on your language innovations to unsuspecting younger seminarians.
Sherm, you were ordained a priest in 1962. You became a high school teacher. Trouble began in 1964. You urged your students to read a new magazine article about the U.S. cardinals -- an article somewhat critical of Cardinal McIntyre. You were transferred, then transferred again, then urged to find another diocese. In parish ministry in Colorado, you decided that the problem wasn't you or the boss. The real problem was the job.
Sherm, you visited us when Bob Delaney, John McFadden, Don Reiman and I were priests working in Mexico. At Father Bill Wasson's home for poor children, we found a bedroom for you next door, where Father Bill's parents lived. The next morning, dressed casually, you greeted Bill Wasson Sr. You said, "Hi, I'm George Sherman, priest. New friend, what's your name?" He answered, "This is my house! Who the hell did you say you are?"
Sherm, you're cool. You've done everything right. You disturbed some consciences. You learned about yourself. You courted and married Helen. You earned a Ph.D. degree at Temple University. You became the industry expert in the field of long term care insurance. You listened to the music. You told us what jazz recordings were the best. Last year you and Helen brought your college student daughter Laurel to California to meet us. This past summer your family hosted Bob Ridley, Ken Wenker, Gerry Fallon and their spouses at your home in scenic southern Colorado.
Sherm, you've generously posted your wisdom, humor and photographs at the seminary alumni website. All of us at LAsems -- Gerry Fallon, Mike Dunne, Joe Phelan, Ralph Platz, Bill DuBay, Dan Lopez, Frank Buckman, Charlie Knapp, Phil Berryman, Bob Ridley, Charlie Ara, Betty, Denise, Philothea, Jim Houston, John McFadden, Serge Beltran, Howard Platz, John Gremer, Ken Wenker and I -- we thank you for being one of us.
I'll paraphrase the words of Ralph Platz. He said it best. Sherm, your death
is an immense loss for all of us. You've been the heart and spirit of LAsems.
Yours is a bright, alert, and witty mind -- able to challenge, to stimulate
debate, to encapsulate thoughts in memorably few words, and to maintain a
balance between opposing views. But most of all, you've extended to us a
friendship that not only was rooted in our common past but also remained
vividly alive even across the diverse paths down which we all have gone.
In your friendship we have all been blessed. May Jesus welcome you home and
give you rest until we all meet again.
From Phil Berryman, November 5, 2005:
At George Sherman's instigation, some of us read "A World
Full of Gods" by a scholar named Keith Hopkins. He takes snapshots of the
world of the first three centuries.
Sherm, of happy memory, was a bit of an enfant terrible in the LA archdiocese in the mid- to late '60s, went to the Pueblo CO diocese then left and married Helen (IHM, who had been in Camarillo). He then studied for a degree in religion at Temple (here in Phila.). When I visited him (1971, I believe) he told me that the religion dept. was then divided into "history" types and "faith" types. He was already in the former. As someone then committed to being a priest, I found it hard to see how you could devote your life to studying and teaching about something presumably of ultimate concern that you didn't believe in.
Anyway, he did his dissertation on "Faith of the Martyrs" and thought it was "cool" (his word) to compare the early martyrs to Dan Berrigan etc.
When he got his PhD. in 1972 or so, he spent a whole year sending out resumes, with only a couple nibbles. He then retooled himself, went to work in a PA bureaucracy on aging, and then for the feds in DC. He became an expert on long-term health insurance and in his later years worked for some part of the AmEx empire.
He retained an interest in the field of the early church (or late antiquity). I remember him enthusiastic about the work of Ramsay MacMullen. His was a more or less detached interest in a period of history.
You can probably find some of his reviews on Amazon, e.g., of the Hopkins book but probably MacMullen.
I don't think he would have had much interest in gnostics, except as one of the strands of the period of history.
What he admired about Hopkins, was his ability to take scholarly knowledge and wrote an interesting book for non-specialists.