BY ANDY BARTON
By virtue of my job, I am one of relatively few numbers of the 180,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Colorado Springs who get to interact with our Bishop on a regular basis. I take that familiarity for granted, forgetting that most people only see Bishop Sheridan in more formal settings which do not allow for the kind of interactions that build familiarity. Through car rides, meetings, and impromptu chats, I have been lucky to get to know the man who has served as our Bishop since 2003. What I have come to know about Bishop Sheridan is that he is amazingly knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics. You expect a bishop to know and speak to the Catholic faith, but the richness and depth of Bishop Sheridan’s theological wisdom and expertise are beyond words. Just as important, to know Bishop Sheridan is to understand his deep care for all people in our Diocese and especially the poor and vulnerable.
I do not know how Bishops are judged to have done a good job. There is certainly instruction in Christ’s directive to the Disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28: 19-20) That success would presumably be measured in the number of new parishes that had been built, how many people converted, and the success of religious education. By these measures, Bishop Sheridan has accomplished much during his time. Over the past 18 years, the diocese has added parishes and a state-of-the-art Catholic Student Center to serve college students in Colorado Springs, just to name a few accomplishments.
Leaders are also judged by how they managed difficult times. During his tenure, Bishop Sheridan led the faithful of a church that has been shaken by revelations of past mistakes. He has led during a time when the Church is criticized both for defending itself and for advocating for its beliefs. In his final year, he helped navigate the uncertain and unprecedented times of the pandemic.
The other measure of the Church and of the Bishop leading it, I believe, is how those on the margins are treated. As was the case in Christ’s time, our present-day society often ignores or disdains the homeless and the immigrant. Their presence in our communities draws the ire of influential and powerful people. Bishop Sheridan has never flinched in the face of pressure to abandon or hide our brothers and sisters in need. In perhaps his most important accomplishment, Bishop Sheridan played an enormous role in the construction of the Marian House in 2008 and the Hanifen Center in 2009. Those two facilities have served hundreds of thousands of people since their opening.
As a layperson and a convert, I do not presume to have any authority in judging a Bishop. What I do know, from six years of experience working at Catholic Charities, is how our poor and vulnerable are treated. Thank you, Bishop Sheridan, for all that you have done these past 18 years to guide this Diocese, and for the legacy you leave in service to our poor.
Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.