A Roswell native, Fr. Cormac was born on May 18, 1926. His father, James Clifford Antram, worked at the Roswell Western Union office and his mother, Goldie Day Antram, was a homemaker. The Antram family was large and were always devout parishioners of St. Peter’s Church. The Antrams weathered the Depression, WWII, and so much more, as did any family of that time. Don’t tell J. Edgar Hoover, but Fr. Cormac’s father even brewed homemade beer in his basement during Prohibition and shared it with Roswell old-timers.
Fr. Cormac is survived by siblings: Mary Virginia Ferns, Ruth Privratsky, Joanne Gasiel, Bernice Froeschle and Richard Antram. He is now again once joined with his deceased siblings Jeanne Antram and John Antram.
Another, much larger family will remember him, though, and that is the Navajo people. When Fr. Cormac entered the seminary in the early 1950’s, it was quickly noted that he had a gift for complex languages, mainly Navajo. At that point, the traditional Navajo language was on the fast track to becoming a “dead language,” becoming eclipsed by English and Spanish. A few years before, during WWII, the “Navajo Code Talkers” were instrumental in the success of the Allied Forces, since none of the Axis Forces could break their “code,” which of course, was the Navajo language.
Ordained as a Catholic Franciscan Missionary in 1954, Fr. Cormac’s only wish was to work with the Native Americans in the Four Corners region. In 1958, he started an AM radio show called “The Padre’s Hour,” which reached even the most remote parts of the reservations. Many generations of Navajo people have looked to him for guidance, understanding and hope. He also was instrumental in translating the Holy Mass into Navajo, which received Ecclesiastical approval from Pope John Paul II, as the only translation of the Holy Mass exclusively for use in the United States of America.
Fr. Cormac was buried on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, at the friary cemetery in St. Michaels, AZ. The simple service was attended by family members and many, many hundreds of Navajo friends.
Please make any donations to Padre’s Hour, St. Michael’s Mission, PO Box 680, Saint Michaels, AZ, 86511-0680.