The parish of Killinkere and the village of Robeen in Mayo were in mourning following the death at his home in Robeen on Thursday, September 9 of Fr. Paddy Sheridan, OMI late of Killinkere. Aged 74, he was the second youngest of nine and had recently celebrated the golden jubilee of his priesthood with his parishioners in Robeen.
A native of Beagh, Killinkere, he was born in 1936, the same year that Mayo won their first Sam Maguire Cup, and coming from a family with a strong, football tradition, it is no surprise that the GAA played a major part in his life. After studying for the priesthood he was ordained in 1960 and in another footballing coincidence, on the same day that Down won their first senior All-Ireland title. It was something that he always reflected on as he had given his ticket to see that game to his late brother, Eddie.
Fr. Sheridan began his life in the priesthood at the Oblate Scholasticate in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, before moving on after a year to the headquarters of the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore. A man of action, energy and humour he always had an insatiable desire to improve the life of the community wherever he worked. He ministered in England until 1992, having served in Holy Cross, Liverpool; the English Martyr's Parish in Tower Hill, London; The Irish Centre in Camden Town; Plunkett House Hostel in Birmingham; Christopher House, Quex Road, Kilburn and other Oblate parishes in England.
Describing his time in the London Irish Centre, he once remarked; "It was the most demanding place I have ever been in. It was real Oblate type of work where one had to be as strong as an ox, as patient as Job, as energetic as St. Paul and as foolish as a saint." Not someone to back down on his strong views, he delivered a message that was not always what the powerful in Ireland or England wanted to hear. He once appeared on the Late Late Show, where he championed the cause of the emigrant and the dispossessed. He was at the helm of many projects in England as director of the Irish Welfare Centre in Birmingham and was founder of the Eskimo Golf Society in north London, where he helped raise funds for the Oblate Missions serving in Brazil and other places.
He was a former president and long-term member of the Cavan Association in London. He came back to Ireland in 1992 and spent six years on Innisboffin. In 1998 he was appointed to Tooreen and went to Robeen in 2006. During his final battle with cancer, the people of Robeen cared for him, something to which his family and close friends will be eternally grateful.
Fr. Paddy was a proud native of Killinkere parish. He was a member of Killinkere GFC and played football at underage, minor and senior with his brothers, Edward, Mickey and John. His brother Mickey played U16 for Bailieborough Shamrocks and was on one occasion as the term goes "laid out" when playing Mountnugent. The Mountnugent team had lost their way while going to Bailieborough and stopped to ask a young boy directions. The young boy went along for the spin, subsequently togged out and as the expression goes "nailed" his brother Mickey. The young boy was Paddy.
He was on the Killinkere team that defeated Cross to win a junior league in 1956 and scored the winning goal direct from a 50. He played on the 1956 championship winning team but not in the final, as he wasn't allowed out of the seminary. While at Belcamp college in Dublin he played for the Leinster College's team, like his brother Terry before him and later Edward. His football career was interrupted by his time in the seminary and his move to England shortly after his ordination.
The great Galway teams of the 1950s were mainly Dublin-based and played weekly games against the student priests and were tough encounters to say the least as Fr. Paddy testified. He played at county level and captained the Cavan minor team in 1954.
Fr. Paddy never forgot his roots and was always available to help the parish through his enthusiasm and positive ideas. He returned every year to the parish where he gave a sermon simply and to the point, always showing that his main mission in life was remaining true to his faith. His sense of humour was one of his enduring traits. He once told a noisy funeral congregation in St. Mary's in Finchley, "remember, not one of you is going to get out of this world alive, so listen up".
Fr. Sheridan was predeceased by his brothers, Terry in 1983; Edward in 1993 and sister, Miriam in 2006. He is survived by his brothers, John and Mickey; his sisters, Mrs. Sue Sheanon; Bernadette and Sr. Rosaleen; brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law; nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grand nieces and other relatives. Sympathy is also extended to his Oblate confreres; the Archbishop of Tuam and clergy and a wide circle of friends.
The funeral was on Monday of last week following Mass in the Oblate Church, Inchicore. He was laid to rest in the community cemetery.
The president of the Cavan Association in London Joe McIntyre paid a tribute: he said the announcement of Fr. Paddy's death shocked a host of his friends and family. "I had the privilege to know Fr. Paddy, who was ordained in September 1960 the year Down won their first All-Ireland senior title and I am confident Fr. Paddy sent a good luck message to Down in the championship series this year.
"I recall many exchanges with Fr. Paddy at committee level in the Cavan Association in London where his advice was always considered. I greatly admired his conviction toward charitable organisations and the less well off. Fr. Paddy held the presidency of the Cavan Association in London from 1983-1986.
"One of his most outstanding achievements was when he tabled a motion at an executive meeting of the association in 1966 to nominate a charitable organisation for support annually and which was carried. This proposal continued to be adopted by all Cavan associations throughout the world."
Mr. McIntyre relates Fr. Paddy's vision for success within the Cavan Association. He also had a brilliant sense of humour. During the Irish Oblate Pilgrimage International in Lourdes in 1985, Fr. Paddy called Joe to one side in the Grotto and said: "Joe, don't think for one moment that all of those in the congregation come from Cavan."
Joe said Fr. Paddy did tremendous work during his period in the London Irish Centre and officiated at many marriage services in Ireland and Britain and he was proud to have known him.