November 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 227


Sister Lucy's GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER column for November 10, 2000


        In my last week’s article I wrote about our former Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan, who had passed away on October 24, 2000.

        In this article I would like to share with you the impressiveness of his funeral. One does not always think of a funeral as being impressive, but this funeral was.

        I want to take this opportunity, first of all, to highly commend our present Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss, Fr. Michael Gutgsell, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, and everyone who had a part in planning, organizing, and overseeing the many facets of this particular occasion. I came away so very proud to be a Roman Catholic.

        From the time the body of Archbishop Sheehan had been brought to the Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Omaha on Sunday to an hour before the funeral on Tuesday, prayer vigils were held round the clock. All of the various Catholic organizations of the Archdiocese where assigned an hour to come and pray for the repose of the Archbishop’s soul. Hospital personnel, men and women religious, pro-life organizations, teachers, students, family life groups, Knights of Columbus, etc., took their turns to come and pray.

        Everything was conducted with such dignity. Members of the Omaha police force with white gloves took turns to stand beside the casket in prayerful respect. Knights of Columbus stood near the body with regalia and swords drawn which rested on their shoulders throughout the vigil hours.

        Quiet, prayerful respect permeated the Cathedral while live instruments, such as violins, played quality music.

        The funeral itself, which began at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, was attended by almost 20 Bishops from across the country and Catholic faithful who filled the Cathedral. Archbishop Curtiss, who was the main celebrant, led the whole service with such prayerful dignity and decorum. I thought if every priest would offer Mass following his powerful example the whole Catholic faithful could be inspired to be more fervent themselves.

        The music at the funeral was a mixture of Gregorian Chant and polyphonic hymns which were classically fine and uplifting.

        Bishop Milone, former Auxiliary Bishop of Omaha, gave the homily. He said the worst word he had ever heard Archbishop Sheehan say was: “Darn!”

        There was another homily, however, that lasted throughout the prayer vigil and funeral. It was non-verbal, but very powerful. The casket in which the body of former Archbishop Sheehan was laid was a simple wood box. Such a box for a dignitary of the Church! The simplicity of that casket spoke volumes. It made clear the very motto of Archbishop Sheehan: “Quae sursum sunt quaerite.” “To seek the things which are above.”

        The casket did not have handles. The priests who were pall bearers had to make an extra effort to carry it. What a sermon! Perhaps it was one of the best homilies Archbishop Sheehan had ever given. And in a sense he got the last word and maybe the last laugh!

        May our former Archbishop rest in peace and may he pray for us that we, too, seek the things which are above! God bless you, dear reader!

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

November 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 227

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