Bishop Patrick J. Sheridan

Retired vicar general, 89, fondly remembered as 'icon' of New York priesthood


Auxiliary Bishop Patrick J. Sheridan, a retired vicar general who served with distinction in many other roles, was remembered during his Funeral Mass Dec. 7 as a sterling example of the New York priesthood. The bishop died Dec. 2 at age 89.

Bishop Sheridan, who was named vicar general by Cardinal O’Connor and was reappointed to the role under Cardinal Egan, held numerous pastoral and administrative positions in the archdiocese in his 64 years of priesthood—accepting each of them enthusiastically.

Bishop Sheridan had worked closely with Cardinal O’Connor since 1985, when the cardinal appointed him vicar for religious. With his appointment in 1987 as vicar general, he became Cardinal O’Connor’s chief deputy and liaison between the cardinal and his regional vicars and heads of major departments. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop by Pope John Paul II and was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal O’Connor in 1990.

Archbishop Dolan offered the Funeral Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Msgr. Richard J. Guastella, pastor of St. Clare’s parish on Staten Island, was the homilist.

A wake was held Dec. 6 in the cathedral’s Lady Chapel. Auxiliary Bishop Robert A. Brucato, retired vicar general, offered the Mass of the Holy Eucharist Dec. 6 in the cathedral, with Msgr. Thomas P. Leonard, pastor of Holy Trinity in Manhattan, giving the homily.

“His was a rich, full priesthood that was a blessing to so many people whose lives he touched with joy,” said Msgr. Guastella in his homily at the morning funeral liturgy attended by many members of the bishop’s extended family as well as friends, associates and members of the parishes where he served.

Msgr. Guastella recalled the words of Cardinal Terence Cooke from his ordination day in 1972, when the cardinal told him he was being assigned to Holy Rosary parish in the Bronx, where then-Msgr. Sheridan was pastor.

“He said, 'I’m sending you to one of the finest priests of this archdiocese,’ ” Msgr. Guastella said.

During the years he served at Holy Rosary, Msgr. Guastella said the bishop provided him with a first-hand lesson in how a parish priest serves his people: by listening to them, being present in their times of sorrow and joy, and by first and foremost being a man of prayer.

The homilist also noted the bishop’s humor, and the enduring friendships he shared with many, most notably Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Ahern, who died in March. The pair were quick to flash their Irish wit, playfully bantering with each other at opposite ends of many dinners and other celebrations around the archdiocese, he said.

At the Funeral Mass, Archbishop Dolan read a telegram of condolence sent by the Apostolic See on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.

The archbishop, in his own remarks, said that Bishop Sheridan was “an icon of what I have come to know and love in you,” the priests of New York, 55 of whom turned out to concelebrate the Mass along with a contingent of auxiliary bishops from the archdiocese.

Cardinal Egan presided over the final commendation, saying, “New York was the center of his life and all of his concerns. New York was greatly blessed to have this great priest and bishop.”

On the altar were a number of other prelates with New York ties including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C.; Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Bishop Timothy McDonnell of the Diocese of Springfield, Mass.; and retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn.

In an interview with CNY in 2001, the year his retirement was accepted, Bishop Sheridan said, “In the training we received as seminarians, the entire focus was on the people in the parish setting.”

“You were trained to render service there, to preach, to teach, to sanctify. Any of the other specialties came later, as a part of your priesthood. But everything was established on the concept of service to the people in the parishes,” he said.

As for other abilities, Bishop Sheridan amassed a number of them as well from his varied positions in the archdiocese. Cardinal Egan, who renewed Bishop Sheridan’s appointment as vicar general soon after becoming archbishop, told CNY in a 2001 interview, “It is no exaggeration to describe Bishop Sheridan as one of the most gifted and dedicated clergymen in the history of the archdiocese.”

Cardinal Egan added at that time that Bishop Sheridan knew “every facet of the life of the archdiocese” through his many assignments and positions of service.

In 1995, he played a key part in the planning for the visit of Pope John Paul II to New York and blessed Central Park’s Great Lawn as the stage was being erected for the Mass.

In 1993, he was named chancellor of the seminary system. He oversaw new faculty appointments, a reform of the curriculum and the institution of the year of spirituality before students began theological studies. Upon his appointment, he told the seminarians that they were preparing for a “joy-filled, demanding, challenging life.”

Earlier, in 1956, he joined the New York Apostolate Mission Band—a group of priests who toured the archdiocese conducting missions and was named leader of the group in 1965. In an interview with CNY in 1990, he called this assignment “the greatest experience in the world.” In that interview, he told CNY that the Mission Band at that time were among the first to bring the documents of the Second Vatican Council to parishes in the archdiocese. He was named a monsignor in 1965.

He taught for a year at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. He served as episcopal vicar of Central Westchester and pastor of St. Joseph’s in Bronxville, 1980-1985. He was episcopal vicar of the Northeast Bronx in the 1970s and was pastor of Holy Rosary. His first assignment as pastor was of Blessed Sacrament in Manhattan, starting in 1967.

Born in Manhattan to a family of seven children, he grew up in Holy Name of Jesus parish on the West Side. He studied at Cathedral Prep and Cathedral College before entering St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie. He was ordained in 1947. After ordination, he was assigned for six months to St. James the Apostle parish in Carmel, before beginning studies for a master’s degree in education at the University of Chicago.

He served a summer assignment at Holy Name parish New Rochelle in 1948, then returned to Chicago to finish his degree. In 1949 he was assigned as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Victory parish in Manhattan and in 1956 served briefly at Corpus Christi, also Manhattan, before joining the Mission Band.

Bishop Sheridan was honored with the Catholic Home Bureau’s Humanitarian Award in 1998 for his priestly presence as educator, pastor and administrator; he received the Medal of Life Award from Pius XII Youth and Family Services in 1999 for his value and concern for human life as an inspiration to others. He was a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Malta.

Burial was in Calvary Cemetery, Queens.