The Rev. Sean O’Shea’s soft-spoken Irish brogue almost always caused his parishioners to lean forward just to hear him.
“He had a presence about him – like having a parent in the room,” said Jen McMahon, whose gradeschool priest was Father O’Shea. “He had a strong accent and you had to really pay attention because it was quite hard to understand and get a sense of what he was saying.”
He was adored at St. Thomas Aquinis School in east Wichita where he oversaw much of the school’s construction projects during the 1980s.
When he passed through the school’s hallways, students would high-five him, said McMahon, now the school’s office associate.
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Father O’Shea died Monday. He was 93.
He was among a large group of priests who emigrated to Kansas at the request of Catholic bishops during the 1950s to fill a priest shortage. He served for 67 years in the Wichita Diocese, an area that encompasses 25 counties in Kansas. He retired in 1999 after performing thousands of baptisms, weddings, first communions and confirmations.
A rosary will be at 7 p.m. today, Nov. 30. Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10 a.m. Friday in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 430 N. Broadway, Wichita. Burial will be at 2 p.m. in Ascension Cemetery, 7200 E. 45th St. N. Street in Bel Aire.
He was born Nov. 25, 1924 at Ballyknockin Maurne Abbey in County Cork and studied at St. Patrick College in Carlow, Ireland. He was ordained on June 4, 1950.
He served at St. Thomas Aquinas and in Wichita from the early 1980s until his retirement in 1999.
“I was in residence there and that’s how I came to know him,” said Rev. John Sherlock. “We conversed a lot and shared a lot of ideas. We told stories of how we got here. … He was the one who built up the school and was instrumental in encouraging excellence in the school.”
St. Thomas Aquinas parishner Ed Sullivan remembers the priest as “very mild-mannered, quiet and prayerful.”
Sullivan remembers how Father O’Shea would hold private masses after he retired, sometimes with only a few people in the room.
“As a student, you could relate to him,” McMahon said. “He was very loving and personable.”
Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber said Father O’Shea had two dominant passions that held together his interior life – evangelization and hospitality.
“This man of class, this priest for others, this lover of beauty, endures along with the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ,” Gerber said.
Father O’Shea is survived by a sister, Catherine (Michael) Jones; sisters-in-law, Elizabeth O’Shea, Philomena O’Shea; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins in Ireland, England, Australia, and the United States.