The Parish of St. Michael Celebrates a Special Father’s Day

Fr. Mark S. Sheehan in the pulpit of the Parish of St. MIchael for Image (c) JMcCT, 2014
Fr. Mark S. Sheehan in the pulpit of the Parish of St. Michael on Father’s Day morning

By Julie McCay Turner

It was a Father’s Day to remember for the Parish of St. Michael. Twenty-seven years after Father Mark Sheehan became the pastor of Bedford’s Roman Catholic Church on Concord Road, Sunday morning’s Celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the occasion of his retirement filled the church to capacity.

“I’m home, at least for a little while,” were among Fr. Sheehan’s first words from the altar. “This is the happiest day of my life in a long time.”

In the narthex before Mass
In the narthex before Mass

In addition to Father’s Day, it was also Trinity Sunday according to the liturgical calendar, with a gospel according to John (3:16-18).  In his homily, Fr. Sheehan noted, “John’s gospel is about light, life and love. You have lived the Gospel of the Trinity by being yourselves.”

Fr. Sheehan applauded Pope Francis’s “prayer summit” earlier this month, when President Shimon Peres of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and , Orthodox Christian leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople  met in a Vatican garden. He was surprised and pleased when the leaders shared an embrace, the sign of peace. “I beg you to work for peace,” he said,” “Faith must be love [and action], not just talked about.”

In his retirement, Fr. Sheehan has found time to watch a little television and particularly enjoys Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show, where at the end of each program, the audience is encouraged to “Be kind to one another.” Fr. Sheehan added enthusiastically, “That’s what we’re all about!”

The congregation at St. Michael’s had been Fr. Sheehan’s “blessed family, bringing joy and happiness into my life nearly every day.” In thanking everyone, Fr. Sheehan worried that he’d get “H E double hockey sticks” if he forgot anyone. The list was long and included the staff at St. Michael’s, Deacon Guy St. Saveur, the choir and musicians, his own family, the altar servers, Eucharistic Ministers, greeters, everyone who participated in the morning’s liturgy, and the Boebel family for orchestrating the reception after Mass.

In a phone interview, parish volunteer John Linz noted that Sunday’s service was unique, “I’ve never seen a homily get a standing ovation!”

An open letter from the parish on the back of Sunday’s order of service read:

Father Sheehan,

You have served the Lord with gladness – tirelessly, faithfully and with great compassion for His flock. Your investment in the lives of others has truly made a difference. You have given help and encouragement to many. You have been a teacher, mentor and shepherd; you have shown us Jesus and taught us the way. You’ve sought His will and carried your Cross.

Now, as this day dawns a new chapter in your life, may God continue to richly bless you and watch over you, and may the God of peace grant you joy and peace now and always!

Duke Stefanelli provided some background about Fr. Sheehan. He grew up in Brockton as one of four children, all of whose names began with M (Mary, Martha, Michael and Mark) and graduated from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree. Ordained 51 years ago on February 2, 1963, Fr. Sheehan served the Archdiocese of Boston at St. John’s in Quincy, St. Mary’s in Winchester, and St. Agatha’s in Milton before coming to St. Michael’s 27 years ago. In his spare time, Fr. Sheehan reads history and theology along with four daily newspapers – the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, USA Today and the New York Times.

“With all that,” said Stefanelli, “Fr. Sheehan is a great guy, a real people person who will be sorely missed by his family at St. Michael’s.” Fellow parishioner Irma Carter concurred, “Fr. Sheehan was involved with so many families during his tenure at St Michael’s….Before and after masses, he was always out by the door greeting everyone…by name…”

Presently living at Regina Cleri, a residence in Boston for retired priests of the Archdiocese of Boston, a move to Youville Place in Lexington at the end of June will bring Fr. Sheehan closer to St. Michael’s and his Bedford home.

A standing ovation greeted Fr. Sheehan as he entered the parish hall
A standing ovation greeted Fr. Sheehan as he entered the parish hall

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