Remember Brother Talbot McSharry

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James Patrick McSharry attended Cardinal Hayes High School and St. Joseph’s Juniorate before entering the congregation on September 19, 1950. At vestition he received the name “Talbot” in honor of the Venerable Matt Talbot, a saintly man from Dublin, Ireland who struggled long and fiercely to overcome the addictive bonds of alcoholism. Little could young James have foreseen at the age of eighteen the ironic twist in his life that would reflect the life of his Irish Patron.

Remarkably, over his thirty-four year high school teaching career, Talbot was stationed at only two missions: six years at Mount St. Joseph’s in Baltimore and twenty-eight years at St. Joseph’s Regional High School, Montvale, New Jersey, where he was among the pioneer group that established the school. There, besides teaching history and criminal justice, he served for a while as dean of discipline and as first varsity soccer coach. For ten years he was chaplain to the Montvale Police Department.

Singing was one of Talbot’s passions. Irish music was in his DNA. He served as a second tenor in the Glee Club of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York, and in the 1970’s recorded an album entitled “Songs of the Irish Provinces.” He was also a member of the Tri-county Pipe Band where he played drums and served as drum major. Every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this compulsive Irish balladeer would sing endlessly the night before with the Friendly Sons and then on the day itself would jauntily march up New York’s Fifth Avenue, clad in tartan kilts, proud to be Irish.

In 1991, Talbot embarked on a new career. He served as prison chaplain at two facilities on Long Island and later at a string of prisons in Tennessee. He became a vocal advocate for the rights of prisoners. Beneath his brash exterior beat an empathetic heart.

Throughout much of his life, Talbot struggled with alcoholism. The disease finally took its toll. In December of 1998 he was transferred from Tennessee to Ryken House, Louisville, where, for the last four months of this life, alcohol-free, he had a final concerted effort to regain sobriety, recommitting himself to AA meetings. With God’s grace, he won that massive struggle, but soon his ravaged body suffered a massive breakdown. He died of a stroke in a Louisville hospital.

Talbot was a colorful, gregarious person. As one observer noted, “When you were around Talbot, things happened! He was not a lackluster fellow!” He was also a good community man, always faithful to his prayer life, and ever a gracious host. He was a member of the congregation for forty-nine years.

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2 Comments

  1. Vincent Maligno says:

    I remember meeting Brother Talbot and commenting how he had someone’s last name. Apparently when the name ‘Matt Talbot” was available, one of his classmates took ‘Matt’ and he took ‘Talbot’. How ironic that alcohol played a part in his life. May he rest in peace.

  2. I was in Brother Talbot’s US History class at St. Joseph’s in Montvale and remember him fondly. He was genuine and down to earth, he could be tough but you knew where you stood with him. High School was not a very memorable time in my life, although I do look upon my time at SJR as a good experience. Perhaps it is my own personal testament to Bro. Talbot that he is one of the teachers I recall so clearly from some 50 years ago. I was certainly not aware of his struggles with alcohol, but trust he is at peace in God’s care.

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