In the fifth installment of this series, we revisit Fr. Edward Sheehan, C.M., who was by 1930 serving as a bishop and experiencing challenges in logistics, communications, security, and others. This series of monthly articles commemorates the 100th anniversary of the China Mission by the Vincentians of the Western Province.
Leaving America for China in Jan 1923, Fr. Edward Sheehan, C.M., came to Anjen. In the summer of the same year, he was made assistant at the mission in Jaochow. Shortly after this, he was made Superior of the house. In the summer of 1924, he was made quasi-pastor of Jaochow. He remained there until July 1929, seven years after arriving in China, when he, at age 41, was consecrated Bishop of the Vicariate by Bishop Louis Clerc Renaud, C.M.
In October of 1930, Bishop Ed Sheehan, C.M., wrote to his friend, Fr. James Coyle, C.M., who was stationed in Yingtan, China, reporting levels of frustration on several fronts. Chief among them was threats from “bandits” and a lack of security from the government. Based on entries from a handwritten journal, the Vincentians constantly dealt with the threat of bandits and war. The capitalization and parentheses are his.
“I have been on the go dodging the NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT’s (non-) ample protection for all foreigners,” Bishop Sheehan writes. “This protection, as you well know, manifests itself especially in the increase in the number of Bandit (Communists) that rule this part of the SOVEREIGN REPUBLIC.”
He writes about several confreres and seminary students who are forced to remain on the move and live in boats and the like because of threats from bandits and soldiers, including an anecdote about troops taking down the wall of the mission in Yukiang to repair the city wall. Soldiers in one unit informed him they had not been paid in months, perhaps answering the question of why they were not providing appropriate security.
“Fouchow district is relatively quiet with rumors of (Communist) bandits coming on Shang-Tung-Tou, I-wang, and Tsung-Jen,” he writes. “The city of Fouchow is for the time being safe. How long? No one knows.”
In addition to tending to the spiritual needs of his people and clergy, Bishop Sheehan addressed their temporal needs. With rising prices and shortages of food, he set about bringing food to the mission villages. He also attempted to improve the plight of his people by corresponding with government offices, pleading for improved security.
Bishop Sheehan closes his letter to Fr. Coyle by asking about the outcome of the World Series. (note – The Philadelphia Athletics defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 2.)
In the summer of 1931, Bishop Sheehan traveled to the U.S. where he ordained priests at St. Mary of the Barrens. He returned to Jaochow in the fall of 1931.
In May 1933, he went to Anjen, where he remained until August 31, when he became seriously ill. The Sisters from Nan-chong sent a doctor, who took him to their hospital in Poyang on September 3. On the evening of September 7, he was anointed by Fr. Misner. Later that same evening, he grew suddenly worse and died from complications of pneumonia. Bishop Sheehan was 45 years of age.
- Letter from Bishop Edward Sheehan, C.M. to Fr. James Coyle, C.M., October 1930