As Fr. John Sheridan processed down the center aisle of St. Mary of the Asumption Church at his first Sunday 9:30 a.m. Eucharistic Liturgy parishioners were leaning over the pews to catch a glimpse of their new spiritual leader and pastoral patriarch. He stopped in front of the altar, bowed, and made his way to the position behind the altar, facing the congregation. “Hello, I’m the new guy,” he bellowed. His smile was wide and his eyes lit up with happiness. This was met with instant applause. He was now in his new home, almost 25 years from the date of his ordination, June 16, 1993.
That smile he possesses is ever-present and genuine as is his passion for the priesthood and love for the Church. His boundless energy and electric personality makes you feel at ease. He firmly believes we are here to spread the word of Christ’s message. “We are all disciples of mission – here to share our faith, be strong, and evangelize to people of all walks of life. We are called to reflect on our own vocations, and spread the Good News of Christ’s ministry.” He says this with conviction as the new pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in Revere and Our Lady of Grace in Everett/Chelsea.
Fr. John, as he likes to be called, is determined to build a stronger and deeper collaborative union between the two parishes established by his predecessor, Fr. Jim Barry. Recently, Morning Star Collaborative became the unofficial name of reference when speaking about both parishes. Parishioners had the opportunity to submit their ideas. Morning Star, a title bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, was chosen. This seems perfect since both parishes are titled for the Mother of Jesus Christ.
After three years as pastor of “The Cranberry Collaborative”, consisting of three parishes – Saints Martha & Mary Parish in Lakeville, Sacred Heart Parish in Middleborough, and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Rochester, he is happy to be back on the North Shore. However, this change of assignment, as with others he has experienced, is filled with emotion and gratitude. “Moving to a new parish is difficult,” he says. “You always create bonds with people both individually and collectively. You become very attached to them. Although with social media, etc., you can remain part of their lives, it can be difficult.” Fr. John continues,” I feel very blessed to have been at different parishes. Each one has a different story and presents a new opportunity. I feel privileged to be part of so many lives. This has continued through his 25 years as a priest.
When asked if his fervor and conviction has increased over the past twenty-five years he says, “It’s been quite an adventure and I’ve had many types of assignments. I’ve served in the city such as Dorchester, rural areas, the North Shore – Salem and Peabody, and the South Shore – the three parishes he just came from and others. I have also been assigned to very diverse communities, the Hispanic, community, Haitian community, and with Black Catholics.”
Fr. John was born and raised in the “working class” section of Newton. His dad, Denis (one “n”) was an Irish immigrant from County Mayo, Ireland, who met and married his mom, Elizabeth, from Somerville. His dad worked as a cook at The Metropolitan State Hospital for many years. Fr. John is the eighth of nine children. “I love chaos and noise, and I thrive in it. Growing up in such a large family you learn to stand up for yourself. I came from a very loving home with parents who totally supported me and my brothers and sisters who grew up close with you.” Today he remains extremely close to his siblings, many nieces, nephews, and the next generations of children born in the Sheridan clan.
As a graduate of Newton High School, young John Sheridan aspired to be a sportswriter. He loves all sports, particularly Boston teams of which he is fanatical about. But the Boston Bruins are his favorite. He delightfully says, “I was born with a puck in my mouth.” He then recalls playing in a hockey game that included seminarians and priests and fondly remembers getting checked hard by Bishop Thomas Dailey.
In 1979 Pope John Paul I visited Boston. Young John Sheridan was fascinated by him and his stature and God’s love and presence in this holy man. At this point he seriously considered his “Calling” and then entered St. John Seminary in Brighton in 1982. He has never looked back. He loves being a priest.
He has felt very welcomed by both parishes in the Morning Star Collaborative. He will develop, with the assistance of Pastoral Associate Linda DeChristoforo and other staff, “A pastoral plan to review where we are, understand what we have, and determine where we want or should go. This is a continuation of evangelization.” Fr. John welcomes children to mass. He loves the sounds of children and wailing of babies. “One of the reasons I feel I’m here is to bring children and their families back to mass and back to the parish. Not just having them partake of CCD classes only.” He is an absolute advocate of Generations of Faith – involvement by all generations as its title states. He will reach out to youth and recruit altar servers and have music, another interest of his, become more prominent. He has currently created a Morning Star Collaborative weekly bulletin that combines both parish’s information and is finalizing a common telephone system. His homilies are filled with personal stories while weaving in the specific Gospel message of the day. There is no doubt he is on the right track.
As “the new guy”, Fr. John Sheridan has already made a very positive first impression. In his new home he has been welcomed and there is every reason to believe he will continue to build bonds and deepen relationships, evangelizing and strengthening the Good News to his parishioners. He might even convert you to being an ardent Boston Bruins fan!