Always with a smile on his face, Fr Bob Sheridan has hung up his stole.
Joined by members of his parish family of Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath, Fr Bob retired over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
“It was an extraordinary occasion for me,” Fr Bob told Catholic Outlook following the celebrations.
“It surprised me in the depth and feeling that was expressed.
“It was a very welcoming feeling of good will and best regards to the future.
“It pulled at the emotional strings. It was extraordinary.”
Having served for 11 years as parish priest and administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath, the most western parish in the Diocese of Parramatta, Fr Bob will be surrounded by fellow retired priests at the opposite end of the Diocese in his new home at Harris Park.
Fr Bob originally retired after the Easter celebrations, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to continue to serve in his ministry at Blackheath. With the easing of restrictions, and the capacity to celebrate Mass with 50 people, parishioners relished the opportunity to gather and give him a final farewell.
Before his call to the priesthood, Fr Bob was married for 33 years until his wife Dawn passed away in 1997. Fr Bob also held many professions in a career spanning over 50 years.
Fr Bob was one of the oldest members of the clergy in the Diocese, but had only been an ordained priest for a short amount of time. He was ordained to the priesthood at 71 years old by then-Bishop Kevin Manning on 9 October 2004.
“Having graced Robert in the sacrament of marriage, God now calls him to the priesthood of Christ,” Bishop Manning told the congregation during the ordination.
“The domain of the priesthood is not that of human reckoning: the domain of the priesthood is grace. Robert will be as fully a priest as he would have been had he been ordained at 25, 40 or 50.
“Robert will celebrate the Eucharist for the community of faith to which he is assigned and thereby be the instrument of grace for that community,” Bishop Manning said.
Fr Jolly Chacko MS, parish priest of St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, and parish moderator for Blackheath said Fr Bob was well-loved by the community and will be missed.
“I believe and understand that Bob was well loved by the community and Bob loved the community so much,” Fr Jolly told Catholic Outlook.
“His commitment and sense of hospitality is always an inspiration.
“He remained a humble person, always available to the needs of the people. He is joyful and happy and always ready to assist and help everyone.
“I have no doubt the people of Blackheath will miss him. He has done well at the age of 87,” Fr Jolly said.
Brian Bright, chair of the parish pastoral council told Catholic Outlook that Fr Bob was a “very personal character and he formed good relationships with everyone.
“Our community in the Megalong, at Mt Victoria, along with Sacred Heart, Blackheath, have been blessed by his ministry to us over a period going on 11 years.
“You have become an integral part of our community here in Blackheath. Working closely with our St Vincent de Paul members, supporting our refugees, visiting the sick and participating in local celebrations, your pastoral heart has been a gift to us all.
“We know your love of the Eucharist has been a central part of your life’s work with us.
“Your loving spirit, shared with us all as family, is truly appreciated.
“May you enjoy your well-deserved retirement. Know that as family, you are always welcome to return and visit us.
“After the words of St Paul from Philippians as he farewelled the brethren, ‘Farewell! I wish you joy in the Lord and may the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, fill your heart and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus,’” Brian said.
Fr Bob explained that although he is considered a retired priest, he has “no intentions of retiring,” saying that he is looking forward to the challenges he will face outside of his parish work.
“This place [Blackheath] was my home. It was a wonderful 11 years in many respects.
“Thank you for having me, for putting up with me, and helping me conduct the pastoral work that I was doing.
“Thank you for your friendliness and for the family environment that I was engrossed in and the acceptance by so many at a family level.
“I will miss all the people here. They are a great mob and I will keep in contact.”