Archbishop Seán O’Malley has accepted Father Joseph Sheehy’s request to retire as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Swampscott. He has also been named a senior priest of the archdiocese, both actions are effective July 1, 2004. Father Sheehy will remain as temporary administrator of the north shore parish where he has been pastor since 1991 until the appointment of a successor.
Born in Boston, Father Sheehy completed his priestly formation at archdiocesan seminaries and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Cushing at Holy Cross Cathedral on Sept. 29, 1953.
Over the next 15 years he served as assistant in three parishes of the archdiocese: St. Joseph, Quincy (1953-56); St. Patrick, Lowell (1956-65); and St. Anthony, Allston (1965-1968).
For the next nine years he served as assistant chaplain at St. Elizabeth Hospital (now Medical Center) in Boston’s Brighton section. Frequently referred to as the flagship of the archdiocesan hospital system, it has been historically a very busy medical facility with many varied services. The priests, like Father Sheehy, who have served there won great praise from staff, patients and families for their attentive pastoral care.
In 1977 Father Sheehy returned to parish ministry. After serving for almost two years as administrator of St. Brigid Parish in South Boston, he was named pastor of Brighton’s St. Columbkille parish in February 1979. At the time the parish had its own high school and grammar school, as well as rectory and convent. Changing demographics and arrivals of new peoples, many of whom were not Catholic, contributed to the difficult decisions of closing the parish high school and the sale of the convent. Even with this change Father Sheehy’s leadership kept the parish on a steady course.
In 1991 he was named pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish in Swampscott. He went from serving a large, historically middle class, though then changing and primarily urban parish to one that was mid-sized, moderately well to do, and suburban. As dramatic as the change might have seemed, Father Sheehy moved gracefully to the new parish winning the hearts and admiration of his people.
Once a successor is appointed at the Swampscott parish, Father Sheehy will really become a senior priest, in the meantime with customary generosity of spirit he will remain as administrator of St. John the Evangelist.