By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published May 25, 2018
DUNWOODY—Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory memorialized Father Daniel Joseph McCormick as one who “remembered the most important things about life” at the priest’s April 27 funeral Mass at All Saints Church.
“He remembered that his deep faith required him always to be a person of joy,” said Archbishop Gregory in his homily at the Mass, concelebrated by several priests of the archdiocese.
“He never forgot he was a priest of Jesus Christ,” said the archbishop. “Dan remembered that the Lord Jesus had loved him and required him to love all others in return.”
Archbishop Gregory said that Father McCormick was always a man of joy and projected a spirit of happiness for one who is waiting for Jesus to return.
“He always seemed to be ready to encounter the Lord Jesus,” he said. “He was a gentle, loving, and venerable character. Very thoughtful.”
Archbishop Gregory said he knew Father McCormick during the twilight of his life.
“That was enough because in that twilight he was clearly ready for Christ,” he said.
A native of New York, Father McCormick was the first priest ordained for the new Diocese of Atlanta in 1957. Father McCormick served as pastor and parochial vicar at many parishes. He also spent over two years with the monks at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers before returning to active service as a diocesan priest. He served in many other assignments and as chaplain to the Roswell police and to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association
Archbishop Gregory said that the Gospel passage of Luke 24:13-35 urges all to listen to the word and to share the broken bread in which the Lord is present.
“Our faith tells us that this risen Christ will one day return in glory,” he said. “In a very selfish way I thank God for this gentle man of faith and for the joy he brought to me whenever I was with him.”
The archbishop said that it was with hopeful heart that Father McCormick encountered the risen Christ face to face, “and I believe that the merciful Lord Jesus was so pleased to greet him that even now Dan is reclining at the table with the one who conceals himself in word and broken bread.”
Homilies of love
Anne Marie Cahill, parishioner, read the “Prayer of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina after Holy Communion” and spoke about Father McCormick.
She said that at the end of World War II and Father McCormick’s tour of duty in the U.S. Navy, his ship docked near an Italian village Padre Pio was visiting. He and other shipmates wanted to see Padre Pio but they were denied permission.
“Father Dan was very disappointed and mentioned often how he regretted not seeing him,” Cahill said. “These past several years he studied Padre Pio more closely, and I watched his devotion to him grow.”
She said love was always a prominent theme in the priest’s homilies.
“There are four things he repeatedly stated in many of his homilies. The first being in all things all I have to do is love him; second, as Jesus commands us to do is love one another as I have loved you; third, give as you have been given to; and lastly, everything is a gift from God,” said Cahill. “Let us honor Father Dan as we leave here today by always remembering to pray and love with hearts of Jesus and Mary,” she said.
Therese and Doug Birkbeck, parishioners since 1999 of All Saints Church, were friends of Father McCormick’s.
“He was an extremely intelligent man and a very loving man,” said Therese Birkbeck.
She brought the Divine Mercy Cenacle to All Saints and their group became Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy. Group members became facilitators and they had seven groups of 10 people. Father McCormick was involved in that effort.
Birkbeck, who now lives in Texas after her husband’s job transfer, called Father McCormick a storyteller.
“We would sit for hours, and he would talk about his travels,” she said.
Birkbeck said Father McCormick would go out West and come back with pictures of nature. “He would come back and share it with us. Sometimes he would print certain pictures and share them with a lot of people, his friends,” she said.
One day, Father McCormick gave her a piece of paper with several names on it before Mass. She asked him what it meant and he told her he wanted everyone listed to gather at her home.
“He got us all together, a group of about 20 people. I knew a few of them,” she said.
Birkbeck said that he wanted everyone to describe their ministry, why and how you get involved and the fruits of it.
“We told our stories. We were diverse but the main thing is that we were people who really wanted to serve God and had a strong Catholic faith,” she explained.
“We all had a very great relationship with Father Dan,” she said. “About twice a year he would say it’s time to get the ‘Holy Family’ together. He started calling us the ‘Holy Family.’ It was a gradual little thing where we ended up with this special, unique bond because of him.”
Birkbeck said that Father McCormick knew people from all over the United States; actors and actresses, blue and white collar workers and people who owned Mom and Pop stores.
“Father McCormick was well read. His favorite thing was philosophy,” said Birkbeck. “He tried to get people to embrace philosophy and theology.”
“He loved adoration. He loved the Eucharist. He loved the Mass. He was always positive,” she said. “He was a very unique individual and a holy priest.”
A fantastic friend
“We had been friends for 55 years,” said Robert Fuller, retired actor and horse ranch owner. Fuller starred in many television shows and movies and is known for his roles in three successful television series, “Wagon Train,” “Laramie” and “Emergency.” He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1975 and inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008.
“He was one of the great guys of all times,” Fuller said of Father McCormick. “He was like a magnet. He just drew people to him. He’s probably the greatest man I’ve ever known. I told him that toward the end. We had a fantastic friendship. I loved him, and he loved me and my family. He did great things for people and the Catholic faith.”
Fuller got to know Father McCormick when judging a horse show in Atlanta in 1963. His wife, Patty, had traveled with him.
Father McCormick came out to visit the Fullers for the first time in California not long after their first meeting, and Fuller soon took up work in Georgia.
“ … I got a call asking me if I would come to Albany, Georgia, and do a telethon for a new thing called the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch,” Fuller said. “I said of course.”
Father McCormick picked Fuller up at the airport upon arrival in Georgia and came with him to the successful telethon, he said.
“For the next 10 years there were sheriffs, Father McCormick, my best friend Chuck Courtney, who played Dan Reid Jr. on the Lone Ranger television series and myself, who would travel all over Georgia raising money for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch,” he said
Trini Lopez and other entertainers also joined the effort by going to different auditoriums and putting on shows to raise money for the Boys Ranch, he said
“This friendship just grew and grew with all this and in the meantime Father Dan would come back to Los Angeles and visit with me,” Fuller said.
“He loved to fish and so do I,” he said. “He loved to shoot guns, target shooting, so do I. We did a lot of that together.”
“After my first wife (Patty) passed away, I married Jennifer,” he said. “Dan just loved her and embraced her and she loved him.”
Jennifer (Savidge) starred in the television series “St. Elsewhere” and “JAG” and continues to work in films.
“About 15 years ago we moved to the ranch in Texas where I retired. Dan came here a couple of times a year and fished with me and stayed. He was a member of the family,” Fuller said.
“Dan loved to sit here and look out the window and watch the horses,” he said. “Every morning he would get up, take his camera and go out and would take pictures of all the animals and the birds. It was a delight to have him here.”
The actor said his priest friend watched television Westerns when he wasn’t doing other things and would join him on set frequently.
“He was a special man … one-of-a-kind. He had great humor. Loved people. Always fun to be around,” Fuller said.