Funeral Mass for Father Sean was Friday, Dec. 1, at the Cathedral
Father Sean O’Shea kept his Irish wit about him – even as death neared.
After asking Father John Sherlock to deliver the homily at his funeral, he said, “Keep it short – but not too short!”
Father Sherlock then asked him what he wanted him to preach about. “I don’t know,” Father O’Shea replied. “I won’t be there. What’s more, that’s your job!”
Father Sherlock, a retired priest of the Diocese of Wichita, fulfilled Father O’Shea’s request Friday, Dec. 1, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita, after Fr. O’Shea’s death Monday, Nov. 27.
Speaking to a full church that included several nieces and nephews from Ireland, Father Sherlock talked about the long trip to America Father O’Shea made aboard the RMS Mauritania after his ordination in 1950. Before he left, he said, the farewells included the equivalent to an Irish wake, where amid food and drink, good-byes were given with the understanding that they may never meet again.
“Once here, he undertook his commitment to be part of Christ’s mission: to live with him and die with him,” Fr. Sherlock said. “Fr. Sean’s life was enhanced by the priestly ministry. He flourished as he acted ‘in persona Christi.’”
He said the Irish priest’s journey began on the Emerald Isle and ended in Wichita. “He has run the race, he has persevered and now he awaits the ultimate reward to live with the Supreme High Priest in Heaven.”
The rebellious spirit he brought with him from County Cork, the “rebel county,” Father Sherlock said, served him in answering the needs of his parishioners for 67 years. “He was always remembering the purpose of his priesthood, the salvation of souls. This was paramount in his thinking.”
His dedication to the Catholics of the diocese continued after his retirement, he said.
“He showed his priestly and caring heart as he frequently visited the sick at the Catholic Care Center and substituted in parishes. When it was his turn to be on the receiving end, the staff at the Catholic Care Center returned the favor while looking after and caring for him affectionate and lovingly.”
Father Sherlock closed his homily by saying, “Adios!…Father Sean go with God,” and in Gaelic added, “‘Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam,’ (may he sit at the right hand of God).”
John J. O’Shea was born on Nov. 25, 1924, at Ballyknockin Maurne Abbey in County Cork and studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick College in Carlow, Ireland. He was ordained there on June 4, 1950.
About six months later Father O’Shea was appointed chaplain of Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott. In 1954 he was named pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Little River. That was followed by pastoral appointments at Sacred Heart in Halstead in 1960; St. Patrick, Kingman, 1967; Holy Cross, Hutchinson, 1973; and St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, 1985. He retired on Jan. 28, 1999.
Father O’Shea’s interment was in Ascension Cemetery in Wichita.