Sherman Steps Down From Pulpit
Beloved Priest Will Stick Around
Lee, Stephen J. "Father Sherman Steps Down From Pulpit." Grand Forks Herald, 11 June 2003, 1.
Father Sherman, longtime and legendary parish priest at "St.
retire this month, it was announced over the weekend at the north-side
Grand Forks church.
The Rev. William Sherman has been a priest 48 years, the last 27
St. Michael's, the largest parish in the Catholic Diocese of
Fargo. Sherman turns 76 next month.
As usual, he brushes off any attempt to make a big deal over him,
off a photo and downplaying the retirement angle.
"I tell you, I'm not really retiring. I will be around town
a lot. I just
don't have to be pastor anymore," he said Tuesday night, late,
leading an inquiry class for novice Catholics.
By all reports and measures, Sherman is about the most beloved
around, based on sheer numbers and years - and fields - of service.
St. Mike's has 5,000 members, larger than any other Catholic parish
region, and about any other church. Sherman's style, of being a
gruff, no-nonsense defender of old-fashioned, blue-collar Catholicism,
while being genial good company to anyone, and wearing his academic
accomplishments lightly, attracted many to the parish. It's difficult,
not impossible, to find a discouraging word said about Sherman,
remarkable fact about any member of the clergy who stays in one
The Rev. Gerald Potter, retired UND religion and philosophy professor
also a diocesan priest, has been in Grand Forks since 1957 and was
St. John's College with Sherman.
"He's a unique combination," Potter said. "He's
very pastoral, a parish
pastor, but he's also a scholar. He's done remarkable research,
really the father of ethnic studies in North Dakota."
"We don't always agree," Potter said with a chuckle.
"But they are always
Sherman's vast experience in parish ministry running the diocese's
parish proved a good school for young priests to get their feet
ground after seminary, said Bishop Samuel Aquila, head of the Fargo
"We are certainly grateful for Father Sherman's years of service,"
said Tuesday. "He's been devoted to the people of Grand Forks
for 26, 27
years, at St. Michael's."
Such tenure is unusual. Fewer than 2 percent of American clergy
denominations stay in one place for 25 years or more.
And it will become very rare indeed in Catholic churches under
policy Aquila has instituted: A priest will be assigned for six
years to a
parish, with a possible renewal of another six years. Then, a transfer
will be in order.
"The U.S. bishops decided to make the maximum 12 years in
parish," Aquila said.
This month, in fact, St. Michael's is going to see the very unusual
of a complete turnover of pastoral staff.
Sherman's associates, the Revs. William McDermott and Thomas Krupwich
are leaving. McDermott will go to Langdon, Minn., replacing the
Rev. Michael Schommer, who will take over for Sherman at St. Mike's.
Krupwich is going to the Carmelite monastery near Wahpeton, N.D.
He came to St. Michael's as a new priest right out of seminary
Krupwich said, one of many new priests sent through Sherman's parish
get some hands-on training.
"He's a great example," Krupwich said. "He's kind
of like a fatherly
priest, the old-fashioned kind who never takes a day off. He used
'You guys don't get a day off. Does a father of a family get a day
It's hard to follow that commitment, Krupwich said. "He always
people to know they can call St. Mike's any time of the day or night
get a priest."
Krupwich came back to St. Mike's a year ago.
"Looking back, I can see all these things I do probably came
him," Krupwich said.
Taking it easy
Sherman and his brother, also a priest, and sister, a nun, have
cabin south of Fergus Falls, Minn., where he expects to spend more
Sherman makes clear he has no intention of retiring, but only taking
opportunity of being freed from the pulpit to spend more time researching
His newest book, on Arabs in North Dakota, officially will hit
He's got more to come, more than he can remember off the top of
head. But they include the tale of a mysterious North Dakota priest,
dead, who led a life of derring-do as a Polish war hero, priest
espionage agent during and after World War II. He's hired Russian,
and Polish translators to help in the research.
There will be a "wiener roast," as he calls it, for Sherman
on Monday at
St. Mike's, but as usual, he's ducking any ceremony.
"No speeches, no program, no nothing," he said. "In
a sense, this is not a
goodbye because I will be floating around the community."