Birthday parties in the friary, greeting every new Franciscan University of Steubenville student, celebrating reconciliation — the list of the Rev. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR’s, favorite memories could go on and on.
Sheridan announced April 8 that he is resigning as university president. According to Sheridan, this decision is one that has been profoundly influenced by prayer and ministry. He took a few moments to reflect on his time at the university and the influence it has had on him and others.
As a priest, Sheridan’s pastoral ministry has shaped the way he sees students. “Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation always gave me the chance to talk with students about their struggles and equipped me to be the instrument through whom God works to assure them that God loves them and wants to help them to become more like him,” he said.
Sheridan’s favorite aspect of pastoral ministry was presiding at the10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at Christ the King Chapel. “It was always standing room only,” he said. “The congregation was always engaged. In fact, with all the Masses that I have celebrated in other locations, I doubt that any other group listened so attentively to the homilies. And it was a testimony that love for the Eucharist unites all members of the Franciscan University family.”
Another bittersweet farewell for Sheridan will be to his brother friars in Holy Spirit Friary. He reflected on how they genuinely care about each other and hold each other up as ministers to campus.
“They are holy men, desiring to do the will of God at all times and to see the face of Christ in everyone they encounter,” he said. “At times, the ministry of the friars at the university is overlooked by some. But without the friars, Franciscan University would be a very different place.”
One of his favorite memories is the friars’ birthday celebrations.
“Since the friars are a family, we all join together to celebrate each other’s birthday in a special way,” Sheridan explained. “The friar gets to choose the meal for dinner and his birthday cake. Our resident cartoonist, the Rev. Dominic Scotto, TOR, would always prepare a cartoon card that captures something special about the birthday friar. And, of course, the friars would always join together to sing “Happy Birthday” — sometimes as the most out-of-tune group of voices that you could ever imagine!”
In this time of transition, Sheridan’s word of advice for discernment is to reflect upon the bigger picture.
“We ought to ask of ourselves such questions as, ‘What are we doing with our lives? What are we searching for? How is God working in our lives? Are we chasing things that we want? Or are we focusing on what God wants?’ We should pray about these questions as we honor our commitment to follow God’s will.”
Sheridan said that hearing the voice of God comes by listening in the silence and deep recesses of the heart and through the voices of others. “Then, we can confidently say that we can do whatever he tells us to do (cf. Jn 2:5),” he said.
Sheridan, despite all the coming changes and uncertainty of the future, knows he is in God’s hands. “There is something very freeing about being a friar in that you know that God will always send you where he needs you the most,” he said. “I trust that God has a plan and I will follow it as best as I can. My major life goal is to always do God’s will, whatever it is. And I pray in thanksgiving for the opportunity to be the instrument for carrying out God’s will during my time at Franciscan University.”
The thing Sheridan will miss most is frequent daily encounters with so many students. “There is something special about the students that God sends to be part of the Franciscan University family,” he said. “And I have been blessed to get to share in the lives of so many of them. I was always blessed to talk with our students before Mass or the sacrament of reconciliation, but also when they stopped by my office to visit or just to talk about various things going on in their lives.”
As he prepares to move on, Sheridan is excited to see where God is calling him to carry his cross next: “I was born on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and throughout my life, that has served as a constant reminder that there is victory in the crosses that we carry. Sharing in the lives of our students made it possible for me to carry all the crosses that the president of Franciscan University is asked to carry.”
In his final weeks as university president, Sheridan is treasuring his time spent here and the final memories he will make. “I will miss being with our students the most,” he said.