By Mary Stadnyk | News Editor
If there’s one thing that sums up the sentiments that people have about Father Brian McCormick, it’s this: He’s a man who commands respect, not demands.
The unwavering love and respect that people have for “Father Brian” and how he tirelessly devoted himself to serving the poor and those in need through his work at Martin House, Trenton, is reflected in their countless stories, reflections and even quips.
Robert Donaldson, who was director of the Martin House Learning Center for more than 15 years, enjoyed talking about the rapport that Father McCormick had with young people.
“He really related to them very well,” said Donaldson. “And the kids had a lot of respect for him. He was always talking with the youth. He always tried to give them life lessons and point them in the right direction. He was always looking to instill in the kids a positive message that would help them.”
Donaldson smiled when he said he could not pass up an opportunity to talk about what it was like to work with and for Father McCormick and his boundless “energy.”
“He was always the first one in the building in the morning and always the last one to leave in the evening,” said Donaldson.
“Even when I tried getting to the office before he did, he was always there,” Donaldson said. “I ended up putting in some pretty long days at Martin House. But it was good.”
“Father Brian set a great example for the staff,” Donaldson continued. “He made sure things got done. He was always about the people, about the community and trying to make a difference in the lives of the people.”
Among the Wilbur residents who went on to become a happy homeowner through Martin House’s Better Community Housing of Trenton program, which has as its goal to provide affordable housing, was Rosalyn Taylor.
“It’s because of Father Brian that I was able to own a home. He’s been a blessing to me and my family,” Taylor said.
And even though Father McCormick is now retired, Taylor said that she and fellow residents “miss seeing him” around the neighborhood.
Linda OIiaro, a member of St. David the King Parish, West Windsor, who volunteered for many years in the Martin House Leaning Center, described Father McCormick as being a “prophet.”
“In many ways, he is like John the Baptist,” said Oliaro.
“Like John the Baptist was a forerunner of Christ, Father Brian brought good news – he brought hope – to the people of Wilbur,” she said.
Although he is retired, Oliaro said she believes that “his story” of helping others “is going to continue.”
“I know he’ll find something wonderful to do where he is going to touch more people.”
Jim Sheerin learned about Martin House in the 1980s while serving as a catechist in St. Paul Parish, Princeton. He arranged for his religious education students to spend a Saturday volunteering and helping to refurbish houses.
“Up until then, I hadn’t met Father Brian,” Sheerin said, “but after spending the day there with my class, I started going back on my own and volunteering there on a regular basis over the years. He and I have become good friends.”
Sheerin, who was president of the Martin House Learning Center for many years, said not only did he have an opportunity to work closely with Father McCormick, he also learned a great deal from him as well.
“His work was phenomenal,” Sheerin said. “For 42 years, he lived in an area that was probably one of the poorest in the state and he made a difference in the lives of the people who needed help.”
Sheerin, who is a member of Nativity Parish, Monroe, smiled when he thought back to the time he brought up the word “vacation” to Father McCormick.
“Father Brian always worked hard and he was always around. He never took vacation,” Sheerin said. When Sheerin gingerly suggested to his good friend that he “take a little time for himself,” the response Sheerin was given was “’I take my vacation when I’m here working with the people.’”
“I don’t think Father Brian will ever retire,” Sheerin said. “Whatever he’s going to do in his retirement, wherever he’s going to go, he’ll continue fighting for the poor and promoting social justice. That’s his life.”