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Obituary: Father John 'Jerry' Shea, retired Brockton pastor

Father John J. Shea Pilot file photo

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Father John J. Shea, known more widely as "Jerry" died at Massachusetts General Hospital on April 4. He had been undergoing treatment for complications of heart failure a condition he had had for many years prior.

Born in Boston on Oct. 13, 1935, he was raised in Cambridge in Blessed Sacrament Parish, the son of the late John and Alice (Burke) Shea. He is survived by his sister, Maureen Smith of Marshfield as well as several nieces and nephews.

His priestly formation was at archdiocesan seminaries in Jamaica Plain and Brighton. Richard Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on Feb. 2, 1961.

His active priestly ministry was in archdiocesan parishes, serving first as an assistant or associate at St. Linus, Natick (1961-1967); St. Patrick, Watertown (1967-1970); St. Cecilia, Boston (1970-1972); St. Joseph, Somerville (1972-1973); and Holy Ghost, Whitman (1974-1985); he was appointed parochial vicar at St. Mary, Plymouth (1985-1987) and then pastor of St. Colman of Cloyne, Brockton (1987-1993). He resigned from the Brockton parish because of health concerns and was granted a health leave returning to parish life as parochial vicar at St. Peter, Plymouth (1994-2001).

He was known for his string of pet Chihuahuas. According to a story he told himself, while he was at Watertown he got the first one. Parishioners were delighted to see the miniature dog, perched at the rear window when Jerry left for his days off. The pastor was delighted to see the dog leave as well. It seems as if the pastor was the recipient of frequent if unwelcome visits by the dog. Finally issuing an ultimatum "Jerry, it's me or the dog." Scooping up the pet, Jerry left and the two moved to St. Joseph, Somerville.

"I never worked as much as I did in retirement." At the time of Jerry's death, a priest observed "he should lie in state in all the parishes he served since retirement". To which another replied, "that would be at least nine days for each of the parishes; sort of like the pope's funeral." Jerry would have loved it. He assisted in parishes in Duxbury, Hanover, Norwell, Plymouth; Pembroke, and Scituate.

Known to many priests, but unknown to many parishioners, Jerry was a Romeo -- retired old man eating out. There was a large group of priests who had family homes on the Irish Riviera (Marshfield, Scituate, Duxbury) and would gather every Tuesday night for refreshments and dinner at a local restaurant. Jerry was perhaps the best promoter, supporter, and convener of the group -- ROMEO -- retired old men eating out. The group has been gathering for more than half a century.

Cardinal O'Malley was the principal celebrant of Father Shea's Funeral Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Marshfield on April 10. Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey; South and Central Regional Vicars: Msgr. George Carlson and Father James Flavin; Msgr. Cornelius McRae, St. John, Seminary; Senior Priests: Father Donald Clifford; Father Robert Thomas; and Fathers Paul Aveni and Joseph Hennessey, administrator and resident respectively at Our Lady of the Assumption, Marshfield were among the many concelebrants.

Father John Schatzel, a classmate and friend for more than half a century was the homilist. Father Shea was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Plymouth.

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