John O'Shea

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John O'Shea, CM

Archbishop John O’Shea, CM was born On October 7, 1887, in Deep River, Conn. His parents were Jeremiah and Nora (Sweeney) O’Shea.

He attended public grade and high schools in Deep River and then went to Niagara University for his college education. In 1908, he entered the Vincentian Fathers and made his vows as a member of that religious community on September 14, 1910. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1914.

Father O'Shea continued with further studies at Columbia University from 1914 to 1917 and began his teaching career. He was assigned to teach at Niagara University in 1917 and continued through 1921. He also served as assistant director of the Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels at NU the last two years of his stay.

He volunteered to go to the foreign missions and he was sent to China in 1921. On May 1, 1928, he was consecrated as the coadjutor bishop of Kanchow, Province of Kiangsi, China, where he lived with great courage amid hostility and attacks.

In 1931, he became bishop of Kanchow. In the years that followed he saw the terrible destruction of the Japanese invasion of his diocese during World War 11 and another siege of terror with the Red Armies invasion under Mao tse Tung.

While he was saying Mass on February 17, 1952, ( feast of Bl. Francis Clet, a Vincentian martyred in China in 1820), Bishop O'Shea was arrested on charges of spying for the United States. He spent seven months in jail. At one point In June 1952, when he was already thought dead, he unexpectedly showed up at the Kanchow mission in a rickshaw, so severely ill with pneumonia that he was anointed (Extreme Unction / Anointing of the Sick).

Some have described him as having the "Mindzenty look" at this time of his grave illness - during and after his release.

In September 1952, he was exiled from China and returned to the United States where he was diagnosed with "bilateral advanced pulmonary tuberculosis" as a result of the torture, poor food, and terrible prison conditions.

Little hope existed for his recovery by the time he reached the hospital after his exit from Chian - via Guam, Honolulu, and San Francisco. But those who provided his care made a devotional novena begging Mother Seton (now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) for his recovery and remarkable improvement in Bishop O'Shea's condition ensued.

When he was better, Bishop O'Shea resided at Northampton, Ridgefield, and again at Northampton until his death 17 years after he left China, on October 6, 1969, at the age of 81.

Father John Carven, CM, archivist for the Eastern United States Province of the Vincentians at St. Vincent Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote in February 2000 of Bishop O'Shea: "He died a very peaceful death, even though Bishop Fulton J. Sheen dubbed him a 'white martyr'."

His funeral was held on October 11 and he is buried at the Vincentian Minor Seminary at Princeton.


• Vigil for Bishop O'Shea by Father Jules Meyrat, CM, dubbed by Bishop O'Shea as his "right-hand man for three decades". This six -page article (pages 13 to 18) tells poignantly and emotionally much of what it meant to keep vigil for the release of Bishop O'Shea. Father Meyrat, a native of Switzerland and missionary to China at Kanchow, was largely responsible from lifting the "Bamboo Curtain" in September 1952 and escorting Bishop O'Shea and Sister Vincent, the last of the American Sisters of Charity in China, safely out of China. - article courtesy of Vincentian Archives, Philadelphia, Father John Carven, CM, archivist

• Without Trial, reprint from The Miraculous Medal, by Most Reverend John A. O'Shea, CM, bishop of Kanchow. These 10 pages tell the story of Bishop O'Shea's months in prison without trial in his own words. A memorable quote from this article: "No place is more convenient for a meeting between God and the soul than a prison cell." - article courtesy of Vincentian Archives, Philadelphia, Father John Carven, CM, archivist

• Bishop O'Shea Comes Home, by Mary Louise Calahan, in Mother Seton Guild Bulletin, February 1955, Number 52, pages one to four - courtesy of Vincentian Archives, Philadelphia, Father John Carven, archivist

• Also three photos of Bishop O'Shea on 1908 NU basketball team, with Father Meyrat, and one alone and O'Shea Hall at Niagara University, the largest resident hall for males, houses 400 students. An 8 - story building completed in 1967, it also houses administrative offices on the ground floor and in the basement.

From Gangloff, Fran. Archbishop John O’Shea, CM:Courageous Missionary to China [Internet]. Version 2. Knol. 2009 Dec 7. Available from: