Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sheridan, John Felix (1825–1897)

by C. J. Duffy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

John Felix Sheridan (1825-1897), Catholic priest, was born at Martinstown, Athboy, County Meath, Ireland, son of Philip Sheridan, farmer, and his wife Catherine, née Moore. Educated at Mr Carroll's 'classical and commercial academy' in Trim, he worked for some years with his father. Resolving to become a missionary, in 1845 he entered the Benedictine Monastery of St Lawrence at Ampleforth, Yorkshire. He joined Archbishop Polding in the St Vincent and reached Sydney on 6 February 1848. He completed his Benedictine studies at St Mary's Seminary, and was ordained by Bishop Davis on 3 March 1852.

In 1853 Sheridan was appointed vice-president of Lyndhurst College and to Petersham, where the Church of St Thomas was soon built. Briefly at St Benedict's, Sydney, he became parish priest of the Church of the Sacred Heart, Darlinghurst, in 1857 and built the presbytery. Bearded, stocky and radiating joviality, he delighted in youth welfare work, helped by his musical gifts (he was a good fiddler) and organizing ability. In 1857-69 he was chaplain of the Australian Holy Catholic Guild of St Mary and St Joseph. In Darlinghurst he also established a home for unemployed women, a non-denominational home for immigrant girls, a teetotal society and a reading room and library.

A fellow of St John's College, University of Sydney, from 1858, in 1864-67 he was prior of Lyndhurst and president of the school, which he reorganized and improved the buildings and grounds. In 1867 he took charge of the parish of St Francis, Haymarket, one of the poorest areas of Sydney. He soon enlarged the church and raised money by bazaars to build a temperance hall, a school and the Convent of the Good Shepherd. He also raised the money to buy Sir Charles Nicholson's house, Tarmons, for the Sisters of Charity.

Sheridan was a director of the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary, and a committee-man of the Home Visiting and Relief Society, the Society for the Relief of Destitute Children and the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, and a member of the Immigration Board. In 1873 he became dean and in 1877 was appointed vicar-general by Archbishop Vaughan. Sheridan's dual role of Benedictine monk and parish priest symbolized the innate conflict in Polding's attempt to fashion a diocese from conventual monks who did not live in a monastery. Under Vaughan, Sheridan had to preside over the dissolution of Lyndhurst and the monastic establishment of the cathedral. He administered the diocese in 1883-84 and later visited Europe. He retired to Kincumber near Gosford, where he devoted himself to St Joseph's Orphanage. Aged 72, he died of diabetes and gangrene on 15 March 1897 at Iona Cottage, North Sydney, and was buried in the grounds of the orphanage at Kincumber. His estate was valued for probate at £1046; he left his gold presentation chalice and all his books to his nephew, Rev. John Sheridan, and the residue to St Joseph's Orphanage.

Select Bibliography

  • J. O'Brien, On Darlinghurst Hill (Syd, 1952)
  • Town and Country Journal, 26 May 1877
  • Sydney Mail, 27 Mar 1897
  • Benedictine diary and records (Roman Catholic Archives, Sydney).

Citation details

C. J. Duffy, 'Sheridan, John Felix (1825–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sheridan-john-felix-4572/text7505, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1825
Martinstown, Meath, Ireland

Death

15 March 1897
North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation