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Shawn Sheehan papers

Collection MS-2002-036: Shawn Sheehan papers


  • Creation: 1926-1991
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1990

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the life and ministry of Shawn Sheehan, a parish priest in Boston, Massachusetts, and a professor of liturgical and church history at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. It dates from 1936-1991. The materials in the collection include correspondence, manuscripts, notes, programs, appointment calendars, and photographs. The materials pertain primarily to Sheehan's religious and community activities. Sheehan's religious activities focus on liturgy, evangelization, religious retreats, and ecumenism. Of particular note are the numerous sermons written and given by Sheehan as a Catholic priest. His community activities focused on the anti-war movement, economic and social justice, and nuclear deterrence.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Shawn G. Sheehan was born in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1912. He was the oldest of three children born to Dermond and Annie (Curran) Sheehan, both immigrants from Ireland. Sheehan and his siblings, John and Eileen, grew up in Brockton and attended Brockton High School. He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1933. Sheehan attended St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. Archbishop Richard J. Cushing ordained Sheehan in 1940. Sheehan studied medieval church history at the Catholic University of America, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled "The Christian Reconquest of Spain in the Thirteenth Century: A Study of Principles and Motives." He received his Ph.D. in 1944.

After completing his education, Sheehan was assigned to St. John's Home Missions Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1945. Sheehan served there until 1948, as part of a "lend-lease" policy for areas in need of priests. After returning to Massachusetts, Sheehan served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas's Parish in Salem and at St. Mary's Parish in Cambridge. He served at St. Mary's from 1948 to 1954. Sheehan returned to St. John's Seminary in 1954 as a member of the faculty. He taught liturgical and church history at the seminary for twelve years until 1966. In 1966, Sheehan received another parish assignment to St. Leo's Parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts. After six years, Sheehan was assigned to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in West Acton. He served at St. Elizabeth's from 1972 until his retirement in 1983. He also served as priest-in-residence at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton Centre.

Besides his service as a parish priest and his work as a professor of church history, Sheehan was also highly involved in the liturgical movement that took shape within the Catholic Church in the 1940s and 1950s. The liturgical movement was led by well-known figures Virgil Michel, Gerald Ellard, Michael Mathis, Martin Hellriegel, Reynold Hillenbrand, and Godfrey Diekmann. The movement sought to bring the laity into greater participation in the liturgy. Sheehan maintained an active presence in the National Liturgical Conference for forty years. He served as secretary from 1947-1948, and as president from 1956-1959. On the regional and local level, Sheehan was a member of the New England and Archdiocesan Sacramental Apostolates. In addition, Sheehan served as editor of the publication Mediator, which advocated renewal of Catholic worship, from 1949-1969.

Sheehan participated in other church movements including ecumenism, and justice and peace. He participated in early Protestant-Catholic dialogues. He also worked with education efforts on behalf of the United States Catholic Bishops' Peace Pastoral. Sheehan remained active in the social issues of justice and peace. In 1965, he participated in the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. He also worked to bring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at St. John's Seminary. During his service at St. Leo's in Dorchester, Sheehan worked with social service agencies, federal antipoverty programs, and The Model Cities Program. Moreover, he served as the first president of Lena Park Development Corporation. While serving as priest-in-residence at Sacred Heart, Sheehan was involved with a Sister City Project between Newton, Massachusetts, and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Shawn Sheehan died at the age of 78 on October 19, 1990, after a battle with cancer.


9.75 Linear Feet (19 containers)

Language of Materials



Shawn Sheehan was a parish priest in Boston, Massachusetts and professor of liturgical and church history at St. John's Seminary. The papers consist of materials pertaining to his parish activities, including numerous sermons, and church movements, particularly ecumenism and justice and peace. In addition, there are materials pertaining to Sheehan's involvement in community projects.


This collection is divived into nine series. Series I. Correspondence. Series II. Religious Materials. Series III. Community Materials. Serivs IV. Teaching Materials. Series V. Thomas Carroll Materials. Series VI. Writing. Series VII. Personal Materials. Series VIII. Photographs. Series IX. Certificates.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Shawn Sheehan Papers
1926-1991, bulk 1940-1990
Sarah K. Nytroe, 2004; and Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States