This was also the first time in my life that I was alone. I was living in my own apartment, by myself, away from my family and many of my friends. I was working in a new place where I didn't know anyone. It was a very lonely time for me. Fr. O'Shea sensed my uneasiness and invited me to dinner at his home one evening. After a delicious meal of pork loin (I came to learn that it was one of his specialties) and roasted asparagus, Father had a talk with me. He shared how difficult of an adjustment it was when he moved from Ireland to Duluth. He missed his family and his country, but he knew this is where God had called him to be. He encouraged me to allow myself six months to really get adjusted to all the changes in my life. He also said, "If you never give new opportunities a chance, then you'll find yourself living in the 'what-ifs' and 'could-have-beens' of the past." He then took his scottie dog, Schnapps, for a walk while I cleaned up the kitchen.
I took Father's advice to heart and threw my energies into learning all I could about working in parish ministry and really studying my faith. I knew I was in a good place when I began talking about "next year" and all the things I would like to see implemented. I was loving my job.
Fr. O'Shea was very much like a second dad to me. He was concerned where I was living and if it was safe enough for me. He often asked if I was taking care of my vehicle and remembering to get the oil changed. He wanted to know if I was doing o.k. financially and able to keep up with my bills. He would bring me food, always saying he had made too much the night before and didn't want to see it go to waste. I also had my fair share of frustrations with the man. I didn't always like some of his policies; thinking them unreasonable, and I didn't always heed the advice he gave me, but overall, I felt blessed to be working for a fair and honest boss, who loved the priesthood and truly lived his faith.
I can't even begin to share all the lessons Fr. O'Shea taught me. He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. He would say, "Do the job I hired you to do. That's why you're here!" He taught me that a good leader isn't necessarily the person who comes up with an answer the quickest. Wisdom isn't rushed, but can be found in the processing. So he would advise me to go home, pour myself a glass of red wine, get a good nights rest and see how things looked in the morning. He taught me to find truth and to not apologize for it. Father did not sugar-coat anything, for he believed that would be a disservice to others. People deserved to hear the honest truth. Father also taught me to not take life too seriously. It is important to make time for fun and to laugh everyday. His quick Irish wit and prankster ways had us laughing daily in the office. It was everything from incensing the office and closing the door when he knew our secretary did not like the smell of incense, to hiking up his pant legs when he suspected I was going to cry over something (preparing for the flood gates to open). Yes, he had a great sense of humor.
The most significant lesson Fr. O'Shea taught me has to do with the question he posed in my interview. How do I resolve my own personal conflict with the Church? I learned that the Church has a 2000 year history, which deserves my respect. Within this history is a plethora of wisdom. Our history does not reflect perfection, but it does reflect faithfulness. If I don't agree with a Church teaching, then I have the obligation to educate myself on why the Church teaches what she does. To not do that is a sign of arrogance. It is to say that I know more than the culmination of those who have gone before me.
"There are not over 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which of course is quite a different thing." Archbishop Fulton J. SheenFr. O'Shea was not just my boss. He was my beloved priest, by confessor, my care-taker, and my teacher. I credit him for assisting me in uncovering the deep love I have for Christ and for His church. My parents planted the seed of faith many years ago and nurtured it throughout my life. They were my first educators of the faith. Fr. O'Shea comes second, only to them, in my catechesis. I resigned from my position at the church in 2000. Saying good-bye to Fr. O'Shea remains one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
Fr. O'Shea was named Monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI on December 21, 2005. It was an appointment that he humbly accepted.
After a series of health issues, Monsignor O'Shea passed away at age 80 on April 4, 2013.
Before Monsignor died, he asked a fellow Irish priest to say the homily at his funeral Mass. Fr. O'Donnell shared the following story:
The Bishop and the Monsignor were planning a visit to the Catholic grade school. Sister, wanting to impress the Bishop, was busily preparing her class for the visit. The day arrived and the Bishop and Monsignor walked into the classroom. The Bishop asked the children, "What is a miter?" The children replied, "It is what the Bishop wears on his head." "Very Good," the Bishop replied. He then asked, "What is a crosier?" Once again, the children replied with the correct answer, "It is the staff you carry in your hand." "Excellent" the Bishop applauded. The Bishop finally asked, "What is a Monsignor?" One little boy responded, "It is the cross you wear around your neck."
This joke was shared in true Irish fashion. All of us in the congregation laughed, and no doubt, Monsignor O'Shea was laughing right along with us.
Thank you Monsignor for your wit, wisdom, love, faith and witness. You are missed and loved.