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A Friend to Everyone: Large Crowd Turns out to say Goodbye to Father Sherman

Zhang, Xiao. "A Friend to Everyone: Large Crowd Turns out to say Goodbye to Father Sherman." Grand Forks Herald, 17 June 2003, sec. 1A.


The retiring Rev. William Sherman holds a key to the city given to him by Mayor MikeBrown at a farewell hotdog feed Monday. More than 500 friends gathered to say goodbye to Sherman and two other departing priests, the Rev. Thomas Krupich and the Rev. William McDermott.

For about 20 years, it's been Delores Hackenberg's job toplan numerous fund-raisers and Christmas events for St. Michael's Catholic Church. And the Rev. William Sherman, who has been at the church since 1977, never before has interfered with her work.

But when it came time to plan Monday's retirement ceremony for Sherman, one of the church's and Grand Forks' most beloved priests, Hackenberg's hands were tied.

Sherman, who is said by many to be down-to-earth, low-key, intelligent and caring for all, would not allow Hackenberg to plan any ceremony. In fact, if it were not for the ceremony the church needed to organize for departing priests, the Rev. Thomas Krupich and the Rev. William McDermott, Sherman wouldn't have allowed Monday's picnic to happen at all.

As it was, Sherman set some rules for the picnic: no fanfare, no microphones and no speeches. People who wanted to visit with the departing priests could come to the courtyard of St. Michael's and have a hotdog or hamburger.

And Hackenberg had to let the St. Michael's Altar Society and St. Michael's Men's Club organize the event.

But when it came to planning the size of the picnic, Sherman didn't have any say in the matter.

More than 500 people poured in Monday evening to say goodbye - people from St. Michael's and other area parishes. Organizers soon ran out of the 500 hotdogs and had to buy more food, said Vern Kary, a member of the Men's Club.

"He's a friend of everybody's," said District Judge Joel Medd, a former member of St. Michael's. "It doesn't matter what everyone's background is."

For Sherman, Monday was a time of mixed feelings.

"It's kind of sad to say goodbye to so many friends. (But) either I walk out of here, or go out on a stretcher," Sherman said with his trademark sense of humor.

Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, a longtime member of St. Michael's who was married in the church, presented Sherman with a key to the city. The city also plans to give Sherman a plaque for his contributions.

"He's an institution in this town," Brown said. "He's one of the pillars of the community."

'Ethnic-conscious'

Hackenberg said Sherman is an "ethnic-conscious" priest. He's always invited priests who speak other languages to St. Michael's to better serve the 5,000-member parish, the largest in the Catholic Diocese of Fargo. The church has held Mass in German, Spanish, Polish and Croatian.

He has worked on and published a half-dozen books, mostly on North Dakota's ethnic groups, including minorities such as blacks and Arabs.

"He's truly an amazing person and knowledgeable," Kary said.

Some church members cried this spring when coming to Sherman's last Easter sermon.

But most agreed retirement will give Sherman a nice break.

"He won't just sit back," said Gerald Hamerlik, a Grand Forks City Council member and a trustee at St. Michael's. "He will be writing and studying."

Sherman will move to the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area and work on three books: one on Eastern European housing in North Dakota, another on a Polish priest who was a war hero and a third on a priest killed in Russia.

Though people are sad to see him leave, Sherman said he'd be back in the area for research.

"It's been a wonderful time here," Sherman said.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

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