Skip to comments.Newly ordained priest suffers heart attack
Posted on 06/10/2003 10:29:04 PM PDT by SMEDLEYBUTLER
DENVER - A former Denver police officer who recently became a Roman Catholic priest remains in critical condition after suffering a massive heart attack Monday evening.
The Rev. John O'Shea was ordained on Saturday and gave his first mass on Sunday. He joked at the time about how nervous he was in his new job compared to his old one. I've had people point guns at me and I wasn't as scared as I was for this," OShea told parishioners.
In addition to serving with the police force for more than 25 years, OShea has ten children. He decided to join the priesthood after his wife passed away.
It's a difficult time for all of us because we never expected something like this, Bishop Jose Gomez said Tuesday. And everyone's been calling and asking about prayers.
O'Shea is being cared for at St. Joseph's Hospital. His doctors say the next 24 to 48 hours will give them a better idea about his recovery.
(Copyright 2003 by 9NEWS KUSA-TV. All Rights Reserved)
Ken Papaleo © News
Deacon John O'Shea prays at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on Sunday morning. Today the former Denver deputy police chief will be welcomed into the priesthood.
Ex-deputy police chief turns to life of the cloth Age 69 and a father of 10, John O'Shea chooses 'God's work'
By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News
June 7, 2003
A few weeks ago, former Denver lawman Ari Zavaras looked up to see the looming 6-foot-1 figure of John O'Shea. O'Shea had stopped by to let Zavaras in on some news.
"He had his collar on," Zavaras recalled. "I looked at him and said, 'Oh, don't tell me!' "
It was true: Denver's former deputy police chief, a widowed father of 10 whose life has zigged more than the road up Mount Evans, was taking yet another turn.
Today, in a 10 a.m. ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 69-year-old John O'Shea will become a Catholic priest. In the crowd will be at least seven of his 10 kids and a likely sea of faces from his unusual life of police work, teaching and faith.
"I didn't plan any of it - it happened," says O'Shea, who since March has worn the clerical collar of an ordained deacon. "God is so good to me. I don't know if I can measure up."
The archdiocese of Denver isn't worried: O'Shea is being named the new senior parochial vicar of the cathedral. In other words, he'll be in daily charge of the church because the rector, Bishop Jose Gomez, is taking on extra duties as chancellor of the archdiocese.
O'Shea is one of four men who will be ordained today at the Cathedral and apparently one of the two oldest nationwide.
"I think there are some other old guys," he muses good-naturedly. "Somebody's bragging there's a guy in Wisconsin who's 60."
For O'Shea, the road to priesthood is the latest of many journeys.
He was born in Denver and married Barbara Broderick right out of high school. In the 1950s, their brood was growing, but O'Shea was still knocking around jobs in Denver meatpacking and biscuit companies. But by 1961, "I had a lot of kids already. I needed a good job."
So he joined the police department. O'Shea got the old Larimer Street beat, back in the days "when it was skid row." He moved on into traffic accident investigations, where he and his partner, Jake Scherrer, streamlined the processing of drunken drivers and upped the convictions 300 percent.
From there, O'Shea moved steadily into other administrative posts and toted up more and more education credits. On the way, he discovered something: He liked going to school.
"You just get hooked," he says, with a grin. So he became a psychologist, earning a doctorate in an unusual subject for a brawny Irish cop: eating disorders.
All the while, he and Barbara were balancing family life with service to their parish. They taught religion classes and marriage preparation. Their faith was important, and that came through. Says Zavaras: "In the cop shop, people can get cynical, a real hard outer shell. But John never did."
In 1987, retirement beckoned and O'Shea began to contemplate a sweet life with Barbara.
Then life zigged again. The seasoned psychologist was named director of the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy in Trinidad. He had one requirement for taking the job: After a life of long hours, "I told them I was going to take my wife everywhere because we had been separated for so long."
But for Barbara, years of heart and lung problems were worsening. In the spring of 1997, Barbara Broderick O'Shea entered the hospital for the last time. The night before her death, on March 2, 1997, the couple entwined hands and reviewed their years together.
"We were praying," O'Shea recalls. "It was a great time. Oh, a great time. We just talked about where she was going and what a great life it was we had shared."
He considered a Florida retirement to be near his daughter, Kathleen ("Swim in the ocean and sit on the beach - God would take care of me"), but he knew it wouldn't be enough.
Already, O'Shea had plunged into running a grief group in Trinidad. And he was aware of something else: "During that year, God kept saying to me that he wanted me to be a priest."
After such a happy marriage, did he ever consider searching for wedded bliss a second time?
"Never thought about it," he says briskly. "I was going to do God's work."
When he started looking into it, Monsignor Raymond Jones, the archdiocese's vicar general, who was well known as a police chaplain, quipped: "Yeah, we've considered people as old as you, but we've never taken them."
Archbishop Charles Chaput wasn't fazed, however. Next thing O'Shea knew, he was off to what he calls "an old guy's seminary" in Boston.
His kids were happy for him. "My daughter Kelly says, 'You've been preaching to us for years.' Yeah, I told her, but you haven't listened to me."
On March 2, "six years to the hour that (Barbara) died," John O'Shea stepped to the altar to become a deacon, the final step before becoming a priest. In his thoughts was Barbara O'Shea, the steady compass in his life. No, he won't be carrying a memento of her today. He doesn't need to.
"She's in my heart."
John Leonard O'Shea
Education: Cathedral grade and high schools; bachelor's degree, Regis University, English and psychology; doctorate in psychology, University of Denver, 1990; entered study for the priesthood in 1999.
Employment: Joined the Denver Police Department, Sept. 18, 1961. Service included patrol, training bureau, property crimes, traffic investigations. Retired in 1987 as deputy police chief.
Director of Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy, Trinidad, 1993.
Taught religion and marriage preparation classes in parishes since 1960s.
torkelsonj@RockyMountainNews.com or (303)892-5055
Copyright 2003, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.
Please notify me via Freepmail if you would like to be added to or removed from the Prayer Ping list.