BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thomas Sheehan, OFM, 75, died March 3 at St. Joseph Hospital here, after suffering a massive stroke at his mother’s home in nearby Lancaster the previous day. He was a professed Franciscan friar for 22 years and a priest almost 50 years.
Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial on March 8 at St. Mary Church in Lancaster.
Thomas was born Oct. 13, 1934, in Lancaster to George and Catherine (Miller) Sheehan and was baptized on Oct. 28 at St. Mary Church. He attended the parish’s grammar and high schools, graduating in 1952 and enrolling at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y.
After his sophomore year, Tom moved across campus to Christ the King Seminary, where he completed his philosophical and theological studies to become a priest for the Diocese of Buffalo. He was ordained March 12, 1960, by Bishop Joseph Burke.
Tom worked in the diocese’s missionary apostolate for one year, before serving as parochial vicar of All Saints Church, Buffalo, for three. In 1964, he was assigned to Cardinal Mindszenty High School in Dunkirk, N.Y., where he taught social studies for 12 years. While teaching, Tom pursued studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, receiving a bachelor’s degree in education in 1970. He was awarded a Master of Divinity from Christ the King Seminary two years later.
Tom served as pastor of St. James Parish in Westfield, N.Y., from 1976 to 1984, and then became campus minister at Niagara Catholic High School in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Over the years, Tom had been discerning a vocation to the Franciscans and entered the pre-novitiate program of Holy Name Province in July 1985 at Holy Cross Friary in the Bronx. He was received into the Order of Friars Minor in May 1986, at St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Mass. On May 17, 1987, he made his first profession of vows in Brookline, before Alban Maguire, OFM.
After a summer assignment at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Beach Haven, N.J., he was assigned to St. Joseph Hospital in Tampa, Fla., for an internship. In 1988, Tom went to Silver Spring, Md., to serve as associate at St. Camillus Church. While there, he received a certificate in scripture studies from the Washington Theological Union. Tom professed his final vows June 16, 1990, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City beforeAnthony Carrozzo, OFM.
For the next three years, he served as parochial vicar at St. Francis in New York but was transferred in 1993 to Christ the King Seminary, which had relocated to East Aurora, N.Y., in order to be closer to his ailing parents. Tom served as spiritual director and occasionally as retreat director at the seminary and assisted local parishes.
In June 2006, due to somewhat-failing health, Tom retired from active ministry to reside with and care for his aged mother, who had lost her husband 12 years earlier.
A wake was held March 6 and 7 in Lancaster. Gabriel Scarfia, OFM, presided at the vigil prayer service Sunday evening and preached the eulogy at the wake service.
At the Mass of Christian Burial the following day, Peter Schneible, OFM, preached the homily. Interment followed at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lancaster.
Tom is survived by his mother, Catharine, his brother, George, and his sisters, Geraldine Grambo and Mary Sartori, as well as many nieces and nephews. Condolences may be sent to George W. Sheehan II, 1015 South French Road, Cheektowaga NY 14227.
Memorial contributions may be made to: The Franciscans — St. Anthony’s Guild, 7 Jersey Street, East Rutherford NJ 07073-1012.