Bishop Emeritus Michael Sheridan’s homilies never ceased to amaze friend and parishioner Mary Watson. That’s why she attended “Theology on Tap” at Trinity Brewery back in February, an event intended for young Catholic adults.

Watson didn’t perfectly fit that description. At 54, she reckons she was the oldest person in the room. But, “they said anybody could go,” and she didn’t want to miss a chance to learn from the retired bishop.

Sheridan fascinated the audience as he discussed the history of the church and where it stands today. She remembers how deeply he listened to the questions that followed — of which there were many, she said — and the profound answers he would give in response.

“We all knew he was a really holy man,” Watson said. “There’s so much hypocrisy. Just to know that you were in front of the real deal was so edifying.”

Sheridan retired as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs back in 2021 after about 18 years in the role, but he still made regular appearances around the diocese in the year that followed.

He died on Tuesday at age 77.

Bishop Michael Sheridan St. Peter Catholic Church Monument

Bishop Michael Sheridan, with arm raised, delivers prayers and ceremonial blessings to those gathered at the groundbreaking ceremony March 3 in Monument, commemorating the start of renovations scheduled for the historic St. Peter Catholic Church. 

St. Mary’s Cathedral will host a vigil at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 6. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at noon Oct. 7 at Holy Apostles Church.

The story of Bishop Sheridan is one of connection — to those in his flock, to those outside of it. His relationship with millennials and students was especially strong, according to Watson.

In fact, he’d had such a profound impact on her son, Justin, that he considered entering seminary. Sheridan would instead celebrate his wedding Mass.

“He was ecstatic,” Justin Watson said. “He’s very supportive of a person pursuing God’s will.”

Sheridan devoted much of his work to supporting Catholic education and campus ministry, according to the diocese director of vocations, the Rev. Kyle Ingles. He was “integral” in building the John Henry Newman Chapel and Catholic Student Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

He had an easygoing personality that related well with younger people, Ingels said. He was an “educator at heart.”

Those who knew him best describe Sheridan as warm and joyful, but he wasn’t bubbly. He had a sense of humor that often shined through, but he never demanded the attention of the room.

Catholic Charities raises $300,000 for health and human services programs

Pictured from left, Bishop Michael Sheridan, Martin Nussbaum and Brian McNulty enjoy the 18th annual Catholic Charities of Central Colorado St. Patrick’s Day gala held at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort last month. Photo by Linda Navarro

“He was humble,” Mary Watson said. “‘Cause he’s the bishop, everybody always has him at a special place, but he would’ve happily taken the last seat.”

Most of all, said Justin Watson, he was genuine, which was part of what attracted his flock to him. There were moments where he’d stand up and “say something the way it was.”

Sheridan was born on March 4, 1945, in St. Louis, where he attended Corpus Christi Catholic School and St. Louis University High School. He was ordained a priest on May 29, 1971, after attending Cardinal Glennon College Seminary and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, according to a press release from the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

He served at several parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis before Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 1997.

The pope later named him co-adjutor of the Diocese of Colorado Springs on Dec. 4, 2001, and would serve as the leader of the diocese from 2003 until his retirement in 2021.

During his time as bishop from 2003 to 2021, Sheridan oversaw the development of the diocese’s Office of Ministry for Hispanic Catholics. At the time of his arrival there was just one Hispanic parish; today there are six.

Fr. Francisco J. Quezada, the first-ever Vicar of Hispanic Ministry, said it was through Sheridan’s leadership and commitment to the Hispanic community that the initiative was able to succeed on limited funding.

The mission was not fully embraced in its early days, Quezada said. They received unhappy emails from parishioners questioning why Sheridan started translating his monthly article in the Catholic paper to Spanish and why the Church was catering to undocumented immigrants.

With the support of Quezada and the other priests, however, Sheridan “stayed the course.”

“The priesthood and being bishop day in and day out is all he knew,” Quezada said. “He was a man of few hobbies, just going at the grind of the priesthood and doing it well.”

Sheridan also confronted the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal on a national and local scale.

A 2019 special master’s report by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office found 166 children were likely abuse victims of Colorado Catholic clergy over several decades. Forty-three priests were implicated in the report, including three victims at the hands of two priests in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

"One victim of the horrific crime of child sexual abuse is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must own the consequences of having three," Sheridan wrote in a statement in 2019. "One predator priest is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must recognize and repent of two."

Through it all, Sheridan retained a love of the church and its people.

05_20_19 St mary's graduation0133.jpg

Bishop Michael Sheridan leads mass during St. Mary's Class of 2019 graduation and baccalaureate Mass Monday, May 20, 2019, at Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

And its people loved him back, according to Justin Watson. In the wake of the news that he had died, Watson said his phone was full of messages from friends across the globe whose lives were impacted by Sheridan.

“It’s funny because like even only a year into retirement, he’s like, ‘you know what? I think this whole thing’s overrated. Let me go home to God,’” Justin Watson said. “It’s a sad day but also a happy day because it’s been fun remembering his life and all he did. Man, he was a really good shepherd for our diocese.”

On June 29, 2021, Bishop James Golka was ordained as the third bishop of the local diocese, which was formed in 1984. It serves nearly 190,000 Catholics, according to previous Gazette reporting.

Memorials can be sent to the care of Esperanza Griffith at the Catholic Pastoral Center, 228 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903.

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