Download the PDF here: Vatican II Interview – Msngr Ed Sheridan
I interviewed Monsignor Edward D. Sheridan, who is the Director of Charities for the diocese of Hamilton and the temporary Parish Administrator of St. Andrew Parish in Oakville. He has been a priest for 48 years. He studied at St. Jerome’s College in Waterloo, then St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton, and was ordained in 1967. Most of his life has been serving in the bishop’s office and for 35 years in Kitchener, Waterloo, overseeing the building of a parish community, plus 22 years as a pastor at Our Lady of Lords Parish. As the Director of Charities, he is involved in sending funds to help out in developing countries, local ministries and other such ventures. When I met Msgr. Sheridan and as we talked, he seemed to be a quiet, humble, gentle, genuine, sensitive, gracious, patient man with a heart for the people.
He said that the Vatican II Council rocked the church, “it was time to open the windows of the church and let the fresh air in.” All the bishops of the world were called to Rome over a 3 year period from which they produced 16 documents to guide the churches. One of the big changes of Vatican II is that the liturgy was changed to be celebrated in the language of the people instead of Latin. Vatican II also put the Scriptures into three cycles—A, B and C. They are in cycle B this year. The greatest thing is to make the people more aware that the Bible is the living Word of God, whereas before their Bibles only served “as a coffee table ornament.” “This world that we live in changes so rapidly, just think about how much technology has changed in our lifetime,” says Sheridan, “but the one thing that doesn’t change is the Gospel, God’s Word that comes to us so that we know that we are called to the Kingdom of Heaven and are here to strive to give witness to our faith and lead others to Christ.”
He continued, “we have a tsunami of information but a drought of wisdom. Euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion, etc.” It was only in his lifetime that African American people have gained equal standing in society. “It took us a while to even realize that all people are created equal by God.” He continued expanding the idea to accessibility for handicapped, and other spheres of neglect society has only recently become aware of to make necessary changes. What the Catholic church wants to convey, at the end of Mass when they say “go forth, the mass has ended” is that the liturgy has ended but the mass continues in daily life as people live out the Gospel. Sheridan says, “Critics want us to believe that a lot of people have given up on church—but when we see people going to the various churches it is a sign that people still hunger for the meaning of life.” The deeper hungers of life can only be satisfied by the person’s desire to walk with Christ. “We want people’s faith to be written on their hearts,” not just in mere ritual.
Vatican II has opened up interchange and relationships between various denominations. Msgr. Sheridan described one priest in his Diocese who works together with the Anglican and Lutheran churches to do various ministries together. “We pray for the Jewish people and respect for their traditions continues to grow.” He stressed the importance of respect and the ability to talk to each other, of which I must give a hearty amen! Now, several Anglican churches are coming back to union with Rome but maintaining their own liturgy. This movement has produced a greater sense of unity among various churches which did not exist before Vatican II. Sheridan says this is hopeful as the prayer of Jesus is for His Church to be one—and this is what we strive towards.
Msgr. Sheridan has met Pope Francis and attributes the gracious changes and contributions of the different Popes to the gracious direction of the Holy Spirit over the Catholic church to move towards reform. The Catholic church went through difficult times with regards to sexual scandals and it was a shameful time. It destroyed many people. However, things have been addressed and the outlook is hopeful. Msgr. Sheridan definitely talks in a manner that reflects a strong belief in the universal solidarity of the Catholic church and thus, how these scandals have scarred and hurt the church as a corporate body also. “It helps us to be a humble church… and as Pope Francis said, ‘smell what the shepherd smells.'”
Each parish has their own programs for outreach—scripture studies, programs on Catholicism, grief counselling, and other programs. At St. Andrews this year, he will be receiving 2 people into the church and baptizing 3. However, the focus is not on the numbers, “we have to be concerned about the people and try to serve them well and treat them in a Christ-like manner. To be there for them in all those points of life,” said Sheridan. “In the past maybe we weren’t so good at that. Some priests have had the mind that they were above the people—but that is not the focus we should have.”
With regards to faith and evangelism, Msgr. Sheridan said, “we can explain it only so far, then it’s a mystery. We can’t unravel that mystery completely. We believe in God, and we believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and that he came to be the revelation of God to show us the way.” He made the comparison that life is like a putting together a puzzle without seeing the final picture. Sometimes the pieces are dark, sometimes they’re colourful, but we won’t see the final picture until we draw our last breath. “I don’t think Catholics are great for going out on street corners, or knocking on doors,” said Sheridan. “When new people getting married come to me saying ‘oh I want to be a Catholic.’ I discourage them and tell them in a year or so come back—because they are thinking they have to say that.” But many times, as they come during the year, they see by example and they become incorporated naturally to the church through love and community. Sheridan says, “I will always receive the invitation, but will not put the pressure on.” He continued that, relationships are important, but the most important relationship is the one we have with Jesus. “In the past, Catholics thought that they had a relationship with the church—which is true in some part—but the major relationship is the one we have with Christ. And when we realize that it changes out perception of our walk of faith.” This was a shift that he says is gradually happening since Vatican II.
Sheridan is soon to be 48 years a priest and says he still feels unworthy of the calling, “and yet the Lord says, I’ve chosen the weak to confound the strong.” The main benefit of Vatican II to Msgr. Sheridan is that it has brought Catholics to hear the Word of God, “but not only to hear it—but to act on it.” For years Catholics never opened their Bible, but now the biggest change is to revitalize the Word for the people—to believe that is God speaking to His people. Sheridan says, “it is so powerful and overwhelming at times. . . The fact that there is no replay on life it teaches us that we have to make use of the time and act on the Word.” And to that, I can conclude with a hopeful, more informed and happy amen at the positive changes to the Catholic church through Vatican II.