Rev. David Sherrer, C.S.C.

Sept. 21, 1935-Apr. 13, 2017

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Rev. Charles David Sherrer, C.S.C., 81, died April 13, 2017, at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, following a brief illness.

Father Sherrer was born September 21, 1935, in Marion, Ohio, to Harold Dee and Catherine Fye Sherrer, who preceded him in death. He grew up in Marion, Ohio, graduating from St. Mary High School in 1953 in the same parish that his stone mason grandfather helped build the parish church that still stands today, St. Mary Catholic Church.

After his high school graduation, Fr. Sherrer applied for admission to Holy Cross and the University of Notre Dame. He entered the Novitiate in Jordan, Minn., and graduated from Notre Dame in 1958. He was sent to study theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a Holy Cross Priest in the chapel of the Collegio di Santa Croce, by Luigi Cardinal Traglia, Vicar Apostolic for Rome, on Dec. 3, 1961.

Returning from his studies in Rome in 1962, Fr. Sherrer spent a year at Notre Dame in pastoral studies.

From 1963 to 1964, he was sent to the University of Portland to teach English classes and assist in a residence hall, as well as doing some pastoral work. He returned to Notre Dame the next year to earn his master’s degree in English and then went onto to earn his doctorate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Throughout his years in education, Fr. Sherrer served at different times at the University of Portland as a member of the English faculty, chairman of the English Department, dean of the graduate school and as an academic vice president. He also was president of King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for over six years. After that, he again returned to the University of Portland in 1982. Prior to his retirement, Fr. Sherrer went back to the classroom, teaching introduction to literature, courses in Shakespeare, Chaucer and Irish writers as well as a course he created, “History and Politics in Fiction.” He referred to those final years of teaching as “the most satisfying ministry” of his life. By then, Portland had become his home and he remained there until January when he moved to Holy Cross House at Notre Dame.

In 2012, Fr. Sherrer celebrated his 50 th anniversary of Ordination in a Jubilee Celebration and was among the celebrants honored at a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.

Fr. Sherrer was preceded in death by two brothers, Richard P. Sherrer and Dan A. Sherrer; a sister, Jane Sherrer Munson, and a niece, Johanna Sherrer.

He is survived by nieces and nephews and their families: James (Roberta) Munson, Portland, Ore.; Catherine Sherrer, Crested Butte, Colorado.; Elissa Sherrer (Lawrence) O’Brien, Ashland, Missouri.; E. Margaret Sherrer (Francis) O’Grady and Patricia Sherrer,both of Columbus, Ohio; David (Melissa) Sherrer, Millersport, Ohio; Daniel (Julie) Sherrer, Powell, Ohio; Charles (Janice) Sherrer, Houston, Texas., and Phyllis Sherrer Butterworth, Marion.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, IN, where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at

Wake Eulogy by Br. Donald Stabrowski, C.S.C.
Apr. 18, 2017

Our sympathy and condolences go out to the nieces and nephews and friends of David Sherrer who are with us this evening, and as well his brothers in Holy Cross who knew him so well. Be assured of our prayers for David and for all of his family members who survive him.

How does one speak of David Sherrer– a man who was a masterful public speaker–who spent hours preparing homilies and remarks sometime in poetic verse, which he would use to capture an individual or an event that was so important to those in attendance? It’s even intimidating to attempt to try to do justice to a man who was so important to me in the twenty-four years I lived and worked with him. David was a mentor and a very good friend to me, and I both respected and enjoyed the years I spent with him at the University of Portland– the place David lived and worked for more than 40 years. David’s mark on the University of Portland was not only significant but it was seminal as an administrator under two presidents, in the classroom, in parish ministry, and especially in the local Holy Cross Community.

David was an exemplary story teller, and he could provide an anecdote instantaneously to illustrate the point he was trying to make. These examples came from his family, the places he had lived and worked at, and especially from his life in Holy Cross. He will now become one of those individuals who in community history are recalled almost daily when our men engage in conversation at table. These were men who built Holy Cross, especially in the Pacific Northwest, and David is one of them.

David was born and raised in Marion, Ohio, and he loved recalling his grade school and high school years, all at St. Mary’s Parish where generations of the Sherrer family have worshiped. He was particularly thankful to the Sisters of Charity who taught him in the 12 years he was in school, and he had an Aunt who was a member of that community. He last visited the motherhouse in 2011 and even though his Aunt was no longer living, he visited his former teachers, especially his second grade teacher. As a high school student, David worked at Isle’s, an ice cream store, and later at Kroger’s where he was an apprentice butcher and even joined the meat cutters’ union at the age of 17. No doubt his ability and interest to cook came from these jobs, and he loved to share this talent with others.

David entered Holy Cross in 1953 immediately after high school and completed his first year at Notre Dame before making his novitiate in Jordon Minnesota when Bill Craddock was Novice Master. He made his first vows in August, 1955, returned to Notre Dame to complete his undergraduate degree in 1958, and then was assigned to the Holy Cross Seminary in Rome where he completed classes at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was ordained on December 3, 1961. David fell in love with Rome and all things Italian, especially the food. He could remember the classes and the men who taught him with such vivid examples of what they taught him, that you think he was in that class just that morning. When he arrived in pre-Vatican II Rome in 1958, Pius XII was Pope; he had no idea that John XXIII would become Pope later that year and the Second Vatican Council would follow so quickly. He was grateful for having had the opportunity to experience the Church during those exciting years. He also found the Holy Cross Community in Rome to be an extraordinary gift for someone who had not left Ohio very often. The Generalate was located with the Holy Cross Seminary in those days, and Fr. Heston, the Rector of the Seminary, and the staff opened a whole new world for this impressionable young man. The summer vacations and holidays with his fellow seminarians were cherished times which he recalled vividly and with fond memories almost daily for the next fifty years.

After ordination, he would return to Notre Dame in early 1962, for a year in pastoral studies. In the fall of 1963, he was first assigned to the University of Portland where he taught English and assisted in the residence halls. The following year he returned to Notre Dame to complete a masters degree in English, and to prepare for doctoral studies at the University of North Carolina. He earned his doctorate in English in 1969 writing his dissertation on Shakespearian plays.

With his doctorate completed, he became an Assistant Professor of English at Portland in the fall of 1963, and was assigned to teach four classes, was an assistant rector, and still managed to find time to minister to Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in the Columbia Gorge some fifty miles from Portland. He spent a total of almost 40 years going to that Extension Society Mission that did not have a resident priest, and he with Lloyd Teske and George Bernard, rotated weekends and holy days for several decades providing a sense of continuity to that parish which today is still served by Holy Cross Priests from the University of Portland.

After five years at Portland, David was named President of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where he served for the next 7 years. He immediately devoted himself to the College, loved the city and the people associated with King’s and made many lasting friends there. His secretary, Elaine Zavada who referred to him as “her buddy,” his finance officer Joe Baltz, Madge Benowitz a Member of the Board of Directors, and even the artist who painted his presidential portrait, Nick Corteglia, and his wife Anna, became close and lasting friends. He would often recall how important these individuals were to him, and it was obvious that he saw them as instrumental in his work at King’s. Those years were important to David, and they left an indelible mark on his professional life.

After a year’s sabbatical at Holy Cross Center in Berkeley where he researched his Grandpa Hogan’s logbook, a diary his grandfather wrote as a young sailor leaving Ireland on a British ship which eventually brought him to the United States. David found the ship manifests for every entry his grandfather had in his log with the detailed precision that marked whatever David attempted to do.

Returning to Portland in 1982, David remained there until leaving in January of this year to come to Holy Cross House. At the University he was Dean of the Graduate School, Academic Vice President under Tom Oddo and David Tyson, and as the chief academic officer for nine years, he was responsible for improving academic programs, putting together an excellent faculty, and always managing to teach a class. Despite his imposing posture and booming voice, faculty came to love him for what he did for them. His remark that a well-paid faculty is a happy faculty went over well, and when faculty salaries were improved, he was given much credit by the faculty for understanding their needs and supporting them. When he turned 60, he asked to return to the classroom as a full-time English professor. For the next decade, he taught two sections of freshman English, and an upper division course, one of his favorites was the History and Politics of Fiction seminar, which he developed himself. He required daily written assignments in his freshman classes, which he returned during the very next class with copious comments. He was truly an exemplary teacher someone who perfected learning assessment early on, but he would never admit it or take credit for it. His students frequently commented that initially his external image which was somewhat frightening especially to freshman. But they quickly learned that was not the real David. Actually, they experienced him an extremely caring and soft-hearted individual who was always willing to help them.

No matter how busy his schedule, he always found time to be present and part of his religious community. He never missed common prayer, he was always at the 7:30 am Mass in Holy Cross Court, and when presiding, offered homilies that were challenging and insightful. As an English teacher, his sentences were long and complicated, and during homilies you would find yourself wondering if he would ever compete the sentence he was developing. He always did after a few uses of the word precisely, and then end with a nugget of advice that would remain with you all day.

In his younger years, David was a very formidable individual who walked with purpose. In fact, he loved to walk with his dog Blue, and for many years interested others in Volksmarches. These were 10 kilometer organized walks throughout Portland, the Willamette Valley and Southern Washington. Fred Barr, Fulgence Dougherty, Jim Connelly, John Kurtzke, and myself were frequently with him on these Saturday morning hikes. When returning to Holy Cross Court, he would often provide dinner for as many as six community members. These weekly Saturday dinners for more than 20 years became a great gathering of community in a relaxed setting which David loved to take his turn hosting.

David’s last years were difficulty. When he first retired, His sister Jane had recently moved to Columbia City to be near her son Jim. David would visit her weekly and she too would come to Portland to see him. When she moved into Assisted Living at St. Anthony’s in Portland, he would go there several times a week to spend time with her until her death several years ago. As his health declined, he had difficulty walking, and he spent several hours a day driving at least a hundred miles a day on the back roads of Oregon which he knew as well as the back of his hand. He very generously offered to take visitors to see sites in Oregon. His favorite places were the Columbia River Gorge, the Coast, and a small town in the middle of the coastal range called Vernonia, which I have no idea why he liked going there. Many a visitor, and especially the visiting novices and seminarians, were treated to these all-day excursions usually with a Subway sandwich or a Dairy Queen blizzard for lunch.

When David arrived at Holy Cross House in late January, he told me he wanted to improve his health to the point that he might be able to live at Fatima House. He realized he could no longer return to Portland, but he still wanted to be somewhat active and eventually drive to interesting places here in Indiana. However, that did not happen. My last visits to him were to someone I could not recognize any longer. His body had shrunken so much that you had to convince yourself that it was David. He didn’t speak any longer, but he was still listening, and on one or two visits he would grab your hand indicating that he knew you were there. David is at peace now. He is with his parents, siblings and many friends who preceded him in death. As we gather today to pray for him and to offer respect for a man who lived his life as a wonderful priest, teacher, administrator, mentor and friend we are left with knowing that we were part of David’s life, a life well-lived in doing God’s will no matter where he was assigned. Well done, good and faithful servant, may you rest in peace.

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