On Saturday, August 6, at the end of the 6pm Mass, Fr Christopher Sheehy paused to advise the congregation that he had clipped Cardinal Pell's most recent article from The Catholic Weekly and posted it on the church noticeboard.
''I cannot understand it,'' he had said. ''Maybe some of you will read it and then be able to explain it to me.''
He died of a heart attack a few hours later.
This was no ordinary priest, as his Requiem Mass showed in St Mary's Cathedral. With Cardinal Pell in the Middle East, on his way to World Youth Day, retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson presided. The presence of close to 100 priests on the sanctuary, concelebrating the Mass was, without doubt, a tribute to both Robinson and Sheehy.
In his address to the congregation, which completely packed the cathedral, Robinson confessed that in 1980, after a decade or so at the Matrimonial Tribunal, and emotionally drained by the work, he had recruited the young Fr Sheehy as an assistant. He was clearly in awe of the fact that, more than 30 years later, Sheehy was still there, directing the organisation and fully engaged in its demanding work.
Robinson said that, when one tries to help its clients to restore some emotional stability to their lives, the most important thing on the table ''is not the Bible, nor the book of Canon Law, but the box of tissues for the tears of those distressed people''. Sheehy understood that responsibility well.
FULL ARTICLE: People's priest had feet on ground
Tribunal of the Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Sydney)
Year of the Priest - Fr Christopher Sheehy (XT3 audio)