By Seth Daniel
Father Gerry Osterman looks back at his 50 years of being a priest – the last 16 spent at Everett’s Immaculate Conception Church on Broadway – and he said he recalls a medicine cabinet full of medications.
Though it isn’t conventional, it represents the full circle of his career in the Archdiocese of Boston for the last 50 years – and in a lighthearted way.
He said he recalled being in seminary and during the summer months the ordained priests would take getaways to the seminary. To make a few extra bucks, he and the other seminarians would clean their rooms.
“As we cleaned their rooms, you would look in the medicine cabinets and they were always full of pills and medications,” he said. “You would look at that and wonder if these guys were really healthy. Well, my medicine cabinet is now also full of pills and medications, so that’s kind of how it is. When you look ahead at 50 years, it seems like such a long time. But when you look back at 50 years, you wonder where it all went.”
Father Gerry gathered on Saturday with IC Parishioners and City leaders to do the business of remembering and marking his 50th year of being ordained – that date coming in June 1967.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said having Father Gerry in the Archdiocese has been a blessing.
“For 50 years Fr. Gerry Osterman has brought the caring and compassionate presence of the Lord to the countless people he has served in many parish assignments,” he said. “The Archdiocese is greatly blessed by Fr. Osterman’s ministry to a wide range of ethnic, cultural groups in varying socio-economic settings, always recognizing the dignity of each person while also responding to the needs of the wider community. We pray that the Lord continues to bless him with good health, perseverance and the joy of the priesthood for many years to come.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said having had Father Gerry in Everett for the last 16 years has been a gift to the community.
“Congratulations to Father Gerry on the 50th Anniversary of his Ordination,” said the mayor. “Your 50 years of faithful service has been a generous gift to both the church and our community. God bless you on this milestone of devotion and service.”
At Saturday’s commemoration, Councilors John Hanlon, Peter Napolitano and Michael McLaughlin were on hand to congratulate him as well.
Osterman grew up in Hingham and graduated from Hingham High School in 1959, heading to seminary right after that in September 1959.
“It was a choice of being a doctor or a priest, and either one was going to take a long time, so I decided to try this first,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think I had any struck off the horse moment that directed me to the priesthood, but I was influenced in high school by a priest in the parish that was very well liked and worked very well with young people. He never asked me directly about it, but it he was encouraging when I spoke to him about it.
“It was a gradual thing,” he continued. “My mom was happy. My father was not happy, but he came around when he saw I was happy.”
Osterman said things are a bit different now, as seminary used to also include college. Now, however, many priests go to college first, and then enter the seminary.
His first assignment was in Wayland for five years, and then to Quincy’s St. Boniface for 11 years.
He also spent six years at St. Paul’s in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, and 12 years at what is now St. Katherine’s of Drexel in Dorchester.
In September 2001, he found his way to Broadway Everett, where his first big gathering was a vigil quickly arranged on Sept. 11, 2001, to help people deal with the shock of what had happened.
“I still wasn’t quite sure where the church was located at yet, but it was a huge turnout that day,” he said.
He did face a tough stretch at the beginning of his Everett assignment, though, when he had to close the IC School. That wasn’t popular, but he said people have come to understand the decision.
“If we all had stayed open, we would have all fallen,” he said. “It was difficult because the school was an anchor in the community for so many years. Grandmothers and grandchildren had gone there.”
Now, Father Gerry presides over one of the most diverse parishes in the area, which is something he really enjoys. Having been part of a mission to build a hospital in Haiti 25 years ago, he said he has a special connection with the Haitian community in Everett, as well as the island nation in the Caribbean he visits at least once a year.
“I don’t feel our diversity is difficult at all, but rather it brings a richness to the Parish that has been growing for some time,” he said. “I think I’d have trouble going back to Wayland. I’ve loved all my assignments, but I don’t think I could do them backwards at this point.”
That would be just fine with the Parishioners at IC, who have counted themselves fortunate to be led by Father Gerry.