Monsignor Sean O’Shea, one of the most beloved priests of the archdiocese, passed away on Friday, December 7, aged 87.
The Irish-born priest was known throughout Perth’s Catholic community for many roles, especially for his work based in Fremantle as a chaplain to thousands of seafarers who visited the port over decades and as chaplain for nearly ten years at Rottnest Island’s picturesque Holy Trinity Church.
Numerous holiday-makers visiting the popular holiday destination were greeted by the seemingly ever-happy elderly priest as they left Masses he had celebrated.
Mgr O’Shea arrived in Perth in November 1955 following his ordination to the priesthood in Ireland in June of that year.
His first appointments were as an assistant priest in the parish of East Fremantle and St Mary’s Cathedral until 1961.
In August that year, he was appointed Port Chaplain, which included the appointments of Director of the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre in Fremantle until 1995, and National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea in 1967, a position he held for many years.
In 1987, he was named a Prelate of Honour by Pope John Paul II, with the title Monsignor, and appointed to Rome for two years to take up the position of International Director of the Apostleship of the Sea, having responsibility for Roman Catholic port chaplains throughout the world.
In 1994, he was appointed Parish Priest in the parish of Mosman Park, which concluded in 2002 when he became full-time chaplain on Rottnest Island. There, he became a well-known and loved member of the local community.
Visitors and holiday-makers were likely to be treated to Mgr O’Shea’s culinary speciality, fig jam made according to his mother’s recipe, accompanied by numerous anecdotes of a humorous nature and often interrupted by the Monsignor’s characteristic laughter.
It would be true to say that many would consider Mgr O’Shea’s Irish charm was expressed in his characteristic happy personality matched by his ability to quickly engage people of all ages and backgrounds in conversation, anecdotes and humour.
Due to a decline in health, he retired earlier this year and resided at Castledare. He always professed a desire to be buried on Rottnest Island and was granted permission to be so. Details of his funeral have yet to be announced. An obituary will appear in the near future.