Meet Father Eddie Cormier

July 4, 2018

Fr. Eddie Cormier

His face and his great words are well known in the Acadian community, francophone, and even the English-speaking community of the Island.   He has worked with countless organizations, always putting social justice ahead and never afraid to speak out on a social issue.   Yes, it is Father Eddie Cormier, who celebrated on June 1 his 50 years of service with the Church, but especially with the poor. 

Born from the union of Glorice Cormier and Julitte Bernard in 1941, Eddie Cormier grew up on a small farm and went to school in Saint-Philippe.  When he was 15, he left the Island to study in Chicoutimi, Quebec, in Classical Studies, thanks to a scholarship offered by the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in theology of Laval University at the major seminary in Halifax.   At age 27, he made his debut at Summerside Parish. 

Father Cormier preached the Gospel behind the altars of Tignish, Wellington, Egmont Bay, Palmer Road, Mount Carmel, and many others.   As pastor, he was responsible for the management of the parishes, but also for setting up committees to “support families in the event of an emergency, an illness or a fire for example, and for the teaching the gospel, “he says. 

The most cherished word in Father Eddie’s eyes is that of the great master of the theology of Liberation, Gustavo Gutiérrez, the one who presented the need to free the poor countries from their dependence on the richest.   These inequalities are at the root of social evil, taught the Peruvian priest. 

“Gutiérrez applies the gospel to today’s life,” says Father Eddie.   “Sometimes the gospel is presented as a reward after death.   But salvation is not only after death, it is today, it is for peace, it is for love between humans.   It involves the way we live together, it’s social. 

In an interview with La Voix acadienne, Father Eddie insists.   “Blessed are the poor,” said Christ.  We believe that success is wealth, that money is a social value, while Christian teaching is not that.   […] In our society, we often judge the poor as being responsible for poverty, while they are really victims. ” 

Latin America as a compass 

This sense of urgency towards the poorest came to him through his readings, but also after a mission to the Dominican Republic with the Latin American Mission Program (LAMP) of the Diocese of Charlottetown in the 1980s.   This project marked him for life. 

“We went there to learn from the poor, in support and solidarity.  And the poor told us: go to your place and work to build a more just society, “he explains calmly. 

Although he had to return to Canada after only two years to treat a tumor that had settled in his right leg, the priest was guided by these words.   In spite of his artificial leg and the phantom pains that assail him, Father Eddie has always maintained the course on his project of a better society.   “I’m not as fast as before, but I’ve participated quite a bit,” he said modestly.   Now I am limited, but what I can give, I do it. ” 

Now retired, he is involved with the Cooper Institute, a center for research and popular education on poverty, justice and social inclusion.  Father Eddie is also President of the Acadian Museum of PEI.   “You have to look at our lives in depth, not in a superficial way.   That’s why I’m interested in Acadian history.   Let’s say that it is to help young people to connect, to situate themselves, to identify with who they are “. Father Eddie was also President of SSTA for two terms in the 1980s and 2000s. 

When he is not working on poverty reduction and promoting Acadian culture on the Island, Father Eddie is in the South, in the Dominican Republic during the winter months.   He speaks Spanish and Latin and says Mass every Sunday to about forty people in a “barrio”, a neighborhood near Puerto Plata.

The one who was named Acadian of the Year in 2004 at the Agricultural Exhibition and the Acadian Festival of the Evangeline Region for his community involvement is not a priest like the others.   He made community life and even political samission, determined to change things.   “I see it as a call of the gospel, to build a more just world, it is a way to improve the situation, the community, our Island society, where I am.   So I give a little my share. 

A priest with progressive ideas 

Father Eddie passes on to others, through his commitment to the gospel, the urgency of not only loving his neighbor, but of taking concrete actions that will make the world a better place, even if it can even appear publicly to politicians .  Father Eddie never hid him: he has a New Democrat (NDP) membership card and often takes a position on issues in PEI. 

“It’s unusual for a priest, but I do it because I want changes in society.   It is the political parties that have the power to make significant changes, “he says. 

For Father Eddie, even the Church has a way to go to help everyone lead a better life.   “I think women should have a stronger voice in the church,” he begins.   They should have the right to ordination, to become priests too. ” 

Father Eddie also preaches for optional marriage for the clergy, and for a more fulfilling sexuality.  “Sexuality is a beautiful human value.   The Church has made sexuality a sin, but when done correctly, it’s a good thing, “he says, adding,” I regret not having a partner, not having children.   It’s a sacrifice.   There are many who give up for that.   It is the glory of God that made me live to the end. ” 

Today, Father Cormier has slowed down his activities.   He grows his vegetables in his garden at Abram Village, and challenges himself to get out of the house every day.   Even though he retired, he says bi-weekly Mass at Wellington’s Chez Chez Nous and weekly at Abram Village, as well as once a month in Summerside.  He occasionally replaces priests who must be absent. 

Celebrations on August 4

The entire community is invited to pay tribute to Father Eddie at a Mass at Mount Carmel on August 4, followed by celebrations at the Vanier Center in Wellington.   On this occasion, Father Eddie will receive donations, which will be divided equally between two organizations: the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Les Sources de l’Sources Filant Star, for young people. 

“It’s an open invitation to everyone.   It is a celebration of thanksgiving for all those who participate, in one way or another, in evangelical values.  I met a lot of people who supported me, who participated in the parish and community life, I really enjoyed it, so I hope that people will feel comfortable to come and thank the good God with me, “said Father Eddie. 

Father Eddie Cormier celebrated the 1 st June the 50 th anniversary of ordination.   In conversation with La Voix acadienne, he speaks with love of his vocation. 
What does paradise look like, Father Eddie?   “The word of Christ did not describe much heaven. Jesus said we would be with him.   I see paradise more as a state of mind.   Like a state of pure happiness and joy. 

– By Catherine Paquette

(This is a mechanical translation of the original article that appeared here: la voix acadienne June 18, 2018)