A beloved Catholic priest, author, and seasoned adventurer, Fr. Robert J. Cormier succumbed to an accident while climbing a route on the treacherous Mount Hood in Oregon. The New Jersey native was 57 years old.
The sheriff of Hood River County identified Father Cormier as the climber who had fallen more than 1,000 feet on the morning of May 13. Searchers saw his body soon after his fall and reported that there were no visible signs of life. An effort to retrieve the body will commence when better weather conditions arise. According to a local newspaper, Cormier began his hike up the mountain with two others at approximately 1:45 a.m. on May 13. After reaching the summit of Mount Hood alone at about 8 a.m., he apparently fell down the peak’s northeast slope. Once his body is recovered, funeral arrangements will be made.
Ordained in 1982 by Pope Saint John Paul II, Fr. Cormier was the pastor at the parish of St. Patrick and Our Lady of the Assumption in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. On his last post on his Facebook page, he wrote "With today's message I am pleased to announce to you that on Monday I am leaving on what will likely be my last attempt to climb a big mountain."
“In this case it is Mount Hood in Oregon. We have been at this kind of thing for 40 years and are very much hoping to finish with a victory. I will report to you next Saturday."
Once Cormier's body is recovered, the Archdiocese of Newark and his family will make funeral arrangements. According to KATU TV news, archdiocesan spokesman Jim Goodness said of Fr. Cormier, “He was someone who enjoyed and treasured the beauty of the world, and all of its shapes and colors."
He was the author of several books, including ‘Better Than We Believed’ which was awarded an Honorable Mention by the prestigious Eric Hoffer Awards. He was also the author of ‘Why We Look Up’, and ‘A Faith That Makes Sense’.
In a statement, Gwendolin Herder, publisher of The Crossroad Publishing Company, said "Fr. Bob was passionate about God, a God who--he was convinced--did not want to hide behind formulas removed twice from peoples' life experience today."
Of their nearly 20 years of professional relations, Herder said "Everything Fr. Bob thought, said, wrote and did was in the service of the truth that all of us, every human person, already have what it takes to see the truth of faith for him or herself, that this truth makes ultimate sense, and that faith is the only thing that ever can fill our desires, and make us truly happy.” His website TheFaithKit.org offers consolation for persons afflicted with depression, spiritual dearth, and problems with relationships.
Father Cormier also was once the pastor of the Spanish-speaking community of Saint Rose of Lima in Newark. He served for more than 25 years in elementary and secondary schools, and over 20 years as both a prison chaplain and a rehab counselor. For the past eighteen years he was president of Project Live--a leading institution for the care of the mentally ill. He also spent fifteen summers serving as a priest to parishes in Guatemala where people of the Mam linguistic group predominate.
Father Cormier obtained a pontifical license in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and a license in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. He also once served as a deacon in Thailand. A world traveller, he visited more than 70 countries to provide spiritual care and in pursuit of his avocations of flying, sailing, spelunking and scuba diving. He was a native of Cranford, New Jersey.