Founding bishop of Lubbock Diocese, Archbishop emeritus Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, remembered for life of service and faith
Retired Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Lubbock, died June 3, 2023. He was buried June 9, 2023 from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe.
According to OSVNews, he was a native of Wichita, Kansas, born July 9, 1939, and was largely raised in Texas. He attended St. John’s High School Seminary and Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. He furthered his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University and was ordained July 12, 1964, in Rome as a priest of what was then the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth.
Upon his return to Texas, he served as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Tyler from 1965 to 1968. Returning to Rome, he earned a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Lateran University in 1971. Then-Father Sheehan served as assistant general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC) from 1971 to 1976, and as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas from 1976 to 1982. In 1982, he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Grand Prairie, Texas.
On March 25, 1983, St. John Paul II appointed him the founding bishop of the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas, which was formed with territory from the Amarillo and San Angelo dioceses.
Ten years later St. Pope John Paul II named then-Bishop Sheehan to the Santa Fe Archdiocese, initially as its apostolic administrator after former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez resigned, and three months later as Archbishop Sanchez' successor.
He served as the secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2003 – 2006. He retired in 2015 and was succeeded by Archbishop John Wester as the archbishop of Santa Fe.
"His death is especially poignant for us as we prepare to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Lubbock," Bishop Robert Coerver, bishop of Lubbock, said.
Beyond his pastoral responsibilities, Archbishop Sheehan was deeply committed to social justice, evangelization, and worked tirelessly to abolish the death penalty in New Mexico. He championed initiatives aimed at eradicating poverty, promoting equality, and ensuring the well-being of the most vulnerable members of society. His unwavering advocacy for human rights and dignity earned him the respect and admiration of people from all walks of life.