Campus Uncommons: Gerry Waterman
An artist and winemaker, Father Gerry Waterman believes he was created to create. His original watercolor paintings and bottles of homemade wine are evidence of this mantra.
By Natalie Brubaker ’15
Father Gerry Waterman believes he was created to create. His original watercolor paintings and bottles of homemade wine are evidence of this mantra.
The associate chaplain for Catholic life at Elon began painting nearly 15 years ago, but his interest in winemaking started much earlier. As a 5-year-old, he visited his grandfather’s wine cellar in Connecticut. The sights and smells, which he still vividly recalls, sparked his interest. Years later, Father Gerry, as he’s affectionately known, found himself in the basement of a seminary stomping on grapes barefoot, creating his own bottle labels and using recycled wine bottles to hold his wine.
But what began as a rudimentary hobby soon developed into a refined business. After earning his commercial winemaking certificate from Purdue University, he began making wine at a Connecticut winery for his Franciscan community. He remembers selling 1,360 gallons in just 15 days after a local radio station aired a story about his wine. “From then on the business just exploded,” he says.
But more than a business, for Father Gerry winemaking is an opportunity to create, which is why he’s experimented with flavors such as apricot, strawberry-rhubarb, apple, blueberry, raspberry and pear. It’s also an opportunity for ministry. Since coming to Elon in 2005, he has led wine tastings for faculty and staff at nearby wineries and shared his expertise with student groups. For graduating seniors involved with Catholic Campus Ministry, he hosts a private dinner complete with a bottle of his homemade wine for each student. “Wine is my passion, my ministry and my art,” he says. “You’ve heard of ‘in vino veritas’ (there is truth in wine); but ‘in vino caritas’ (there is love in wine) is what I always say because wine brings people together, which is love.”
His art is also watercolor paintings, paintings of lighthouses, scenes of the sea, the landscape of New Jersey’s Cape May and sunflowers. “Deciding what to paint is very whimsical at times, or in my mind, inspiring,” he says. It’s not hard to see that his wines and paintings are simply end products of his passion to live a life of ministry and creativity. “God has given me the gift of creativity,” he says. “My greatest prayer to God is gratitude for what he has given me. It’s nothing I’ve done for myself.”
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