Newspaper Archive of
The Message
Evansville, Indiana
September 2, 1994     The Message
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September 2, 1994

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S . ! r00l 3, a l the r( II )1. t [is 1 c a d i n "is i ,d f.o, i prl-: and i i! feel" remembered for courage, humor, kindness turned to Tennessee that May. Early assignments in- cluded parish and teaching positions in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. He helped establish Memphis Catholic High School for Boys and he served as principal of Father Ryan High School, Nashville, from 1945 to 1956. In the summer of 1954, during national desegrega- tion efforts, he made the decision to integrate Father Ryan High School. In developing a desegregation policy for the school, he decided not to keep statistics on the number of black and white students who were enrolled. "I didn't want to know, because I'd be asked and I then could honestly say, 'I don't know.'" When his policy was discovered, the news "went out all over the South. I got some very interesting letters from people. Anyway, we learned that by not making rules, that things take their own course and we got through that year without the slightest bit of trouble." It was during this process that he utilized his per- sonal philosophy of "letting people demonstrate their in- nate goodness and not trying to force everybody to do what you think is right. Let them make their own deci- sions and very, very often, it will be the right decision -- if you trust them with it." In 1956, he was named pastor at Immaculate Con- ception Church in his hometown of Knoxville. The parish included inner city neighborhoods and he began outreach programs for the elderly and needy. While in Knoxville, he became involved in ecumenical work believing "the need is too great to work at cross purposes." Father Shea became Msgr. Shea in 1968, and on Dec. 10, 1969, he was named the third bishop of the Dio- cese of Evansville. He was walking out the door to attend a funeral when he received a letter from the Vatican. The envelope said the contents were confidential and that he could only discuss the information with his confessor. "I thought: 'Which one of my friends is in trouble?' Then I discovered who was in trouble." His decision to accept a leadership position was based on his belief that "if they felt it would be good for the Church, I would leave it to their judgment. I had been happy for 30 years doing what the Church had asked me to do." He was prohibited from telling anyone about his appointment until the Vatican made the public announcement. That morning, he dialed the first six numbers of his sisters' telephone number and then waited for the church bell's to chime the time. When he announced his news, he invited them to move to Evansville with him. After the Evansville diocese heard about its newly-named bishop, Msgr. Clinton Hirsch and Father Joseph Ziliak, then editor of the Message, traveled to Knoxville to meet Msgr. Shea. Of their first meeting, Msgr. Hirsch remembers meeting "a gracious Southern gentleman" who was quick to point out that he had had no aspirations of be- coming a bishop. "He was totally surprised by it." He was ordained and installed the third bishop of Evansville on Feb. 3, 1970, at St. Benedict Church, Evansville. One-thousand people attended the ceremony. He began his work in the diocese with a goal of"availability," Msgr. Hirsch said. "To be available to the people generally, and specifically to priests and religious." By the end of his first year, his family in Knoxville knew that "he was very happy with the hand he had been dealt and that he loved the people of Evans- ville," according to his nephew Jim Reddick. The diocesan leader was a astoral leader who believed that parishes need autonomy When he inherited a temporary cathedral, after Assumption Cathe- dral wa .... P  r,..^ orn aown to make way for civic center in Evansville, he made the decision to have ordinations in local churches and Christmas and Holy Week ser- opportunity for him to visit parishes. atler lals dlrectmn dm ohdated at the Master Noster Latm Scho^' ". " , " eesan offices were cons " gi " , ul 811; . i i n a = fi^ . e and dunng his tenure, the oresenee of the laity was felt in both diocesan of- lcesLn  in parochial school classrooms. he led the nests m red them to be kmd to those the served tel'-" -- P " " the diocese, he u g " y , o- mg them, "People will forgive you for a lot of things, but they will not forgive some- ae Who is unkind." on aopShea celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood ,1989, and he retired on April 11, 1989, the day Msgr. Gerald A. Gettelfin- ger was ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of Evansville. He spent his retirement years liv- ing in a brick home on Evansville's eastside, making daily visits to the Lit- tle Sisters of the Poor to see his sister, Helen Shea Sheridan. In May of 1994, he suffered a bro- ken hip and underwent hip replace- ment surgery. He was recuperating from that surgery when he was rushed to the hospital suffering from a heart attack. He died a peaceful death in the emergency room. Bishop Gettelfinger, who was with him, said "He had no need to be frightened because of what he believed and what he preached." His funeral was held August 22 at St. Benedict Church, Evansville. The Mass was attended by over 900 people, including about 100 priests of the Dio- cese of Evansville. Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, O.S.B., of Indianapolis was the main celebrant, and Bishop Gettelfinger de- livered the homily. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, nine midwest- ern bishops and the archabbot from St. Meinrad Archabbey also participated in the funeral liturgy. Bishop Shea was buried, at his re- .   ...... quest, with his "brother priests" in the priests' circle at St. Joseph Cemetery. 1913 -.- August 18, 1994