November 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 220


Sister Lucy's GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER column for November 3, 2000

A Gentle Shepherd

        On Tuesday, October 24, 2000, Omaha lost its retired Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan. A few months ago, Archbishop Sheehan was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was 83 and had been Omaha’s seventh Bishop for 24 years. He led the Church here in Northeast Nebraska during the tough years of the 70’s and 80’s. He had participated in the Second Vatican Council for which he had received a special ring from Pope Paul VI.

        Archbishop Sheehan was born in Emerson, Nebraska on May 14, 1917. (My mother shared the same birthday, only she was born ten years earlier.) Young Daniel was ordained a priest on May 23, 1942, which means that when he died, he had been a priest for 58 years.

        One of my earliest remembrances of Fr. Sheehan occurred when he was 40. He gave the homily at my brother’s first Mass.

        So many times, when he led as Archbishop of Omaha, I attended so many Masses which he offered. I have such clear images of him processing through the Church aisle, holding his Bishop’s staff and blessing people to the right, to the left and over again.

        The most grateful remembrance which I shall always have of him, however, was the wonderful support he gave me when I, with the help of many others, put on a Marian/Eucharistic Conference here in Omaha in 1993. I met with him personally about four times to discuss the speakers of the Conference, what we hoped to achieve, and any difficulty I was having or foresaw might occur. He readily granted me an appointment with each of my calls. One speaker in particular, who had been misjudged by many, including The Wanderer, seemed to be a problem for some people in Omaha. I was open with the Archbishop, presented to him names of Bishops who were more familiar with the person mentioned than I.

        Upon investigating, Archbishop Sheehan blessed my decisions and supported me despite many acts of unkindness on the part of some Catholic people in the area. He graced that Conference by being the main celebrant of the final Mass that weekend. At the end of the Mass I presented to the Archbishop a plaque recognizing his outstanding achievement in education in this Archdiocese. Though usually in apparent total control of his emotions, I could tell he was touched.

        God bless you, Archbishop Sheehan! Thank you for being the meek and gentle leader you were. Some saw that as weakness, but so many forget that meekness requires more strength and virtue than self-indulgent anger and impatience.

        Because of your support and blessing, 4,000 people attended the Conference. For many days I received letters and phone calls from people who said things like: “My ____ came back to confession after being away for 15 years... 20 years... 30 years.” The purpose of the Conference was fulfilled for as Jesus said: “You will know a tree by its fruits!” People are converted through the action of the Holy Spirit, never through the work of the devil, as some people wrongfully hold and teach others. As Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” (Satan works to bring people away from God. He NEVER brings people TO God.)

        Now, Archbishop Sheehan, you will celebrate the Feast of All Saints in Heaven. Please pray for us that one day we may be numbered among them.

        There are many who haven't reached the ranks of Church Triumphant yet. These are the members of the Church Suffering, the souls in Purgatory. November is a special month for praying for them, beginning with All Souls Day. Please remember to pray for those poor souls languishing as they become purified, waiting - interminably for them - until they will see the Beatific Vision.

        God bless you, dear reader.

    Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

November 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 220

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