CASPER, Wyo. – Father Thomas Sheridan’s Irish accent was strong, and his tales were tall.
“It was more important that stories be interesting than true,” recalls Father Gary Ruzicka, now pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, where Father Sheridan once served.
“We heard some of his stories many times, and I’m not sure how factual they are, but they were always interesting and funny.”
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Sheridan is also remembered as warm, engaging, and someone who easily connected with his parishioners.
“He had a really fine way of engaging people, especially people who may have felt alienated or marginalized. He just had kind of a gentle, Irish way about him.”
Ruzicka says Sheridan was part of a glut of young people coming out of seminary schools after World War II.
“They had more that they could use, and so what would happen is bishops from the United States would go over to Ireland and try to entice some of the guys who were studying to be Catholic clergy,” said Ruzicka. After being ordained in 1964 in Ireland, Sheridan came to Wyoming.
According to Sheridan’s obituary, almost half of Wyoming priests were Irish transplants at one point. They even had their own nickname: The FBI (Foreign Born Irish).
Sheridan, the second of 11 children, was born in 1939 on a farm in County Cavan, Ireland. He contracted polio at age 8. Though he didn’t suffer permanent physical impairments from the disease, he did claim to carry emotional baggage from the experience.
He was a footballer (rugby player) in college, and enjoyed sports much of his life.
According to his obit, over his nearly 50-years in Wyoming, Sheridan ministered in 10 communities: Rawlins, Newcastle, Powell, Casper (Our Lady of Fatima and St. Patrick’s), Sheridan, Ranchester, Saratoga, Cheyenne, Rock Springs and finally Green River, where he retired in 2012.
“He was just one of those people that decided he would come to the United States and see what it was like,” said Ruzicka. “He liked it, and just never left.”
After passing away at Central Wyoming Hospice, Father Sheridan was cremated and honored in a vigil last weekend at one of his old churches, St. Patrick’s in Casper.
Per his wishes, his ashes will be sent back to Ireland where he was be buried in a family plot.
“It’s like the circle has been completed,” said Ruzicka. “He’s going back to be buried with his family.”