by Christopher Rails
FRANK SHEED, known to millions of Catholics in Britain. Australia and the United States as a theologian, lecturer and writer, died last Friday in his home at Jersey City, New Jersey, after a short illness.
Francis Joseph Sheed was born in Sydney, Australia in 1897. He graduated from Sydney University with first class honours in Latin, French and English and went on to read law. But he surprised his friends by turning to journalism. In 1919, he came to London and for four years, he worked full time for the Catholic Evidence Guild. For the next 50 years he was one of the best known, speakers on Catholic platforms at Hyde Park, London, and on the street corners of Sydney and New York.
While working for the Guild, he met Maisie Ward, and married her in 1926. The same year the couple founded the London publishing house of Sheed and Ward, and in 1933 the American publishing house of the same name. In its early days it published contributions by Flilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, and Mgr Ronald Knox.
Sheed's early writings included Nullity of Marriage. Communism and Man; and a new version in English of the Confessions of St Augustine, published in 1946. But it was his later works which are chiefly remembered by the Catholic reading public, notably A Map of Life, Theology and Sanity (first published in 1947), Theology for Beginners, To Know Christ Jesus, and The Instructive Heart.
Theology and Sanity, probably his most popular book, has sold in thousands. His theological works spanned more than 50 years, and he was working on a new book on the Holy Spirit when he died, Frank Sheed received a number of personal tributes this week. Miss Mildred Nevile, General Secretary of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, who was related to him commented: "He was completely committed to helping people, and he helped thousands of them. He had 27 Godchildren or more". Miss Nevile, who has known Frank Sheed since she was seven, added: "He was fantastic with children".
She said he had had to adjust very substantially to changes in the Church after Vatican 11. But, she said: "He was extraordinarily open and young in his outlook".
The present Master of the Westminster Catholic Evidence Guild, Mr William Wilcockson, called Dr Sheed "one of the Catholic Evidence Guild's most dynamic speakers. He had a remarkably ebullient personality".
"He and his wife Maisie were a formative inspiration for hundreds of Guild speakers," he said.
Mrs Robina Rafferty, organiser of the annual Maisie Ward/Sheed lecture said: "Knowing Frank Sheed has been one of the highlights of working at the Catholic Housing Aid Society over the past five years.
"In 1977 we decided to institute the annual Maisie WardSheed Memorial Lecture in honour of his wile, one of our two founders. Frank agreed to take the chair for us, as he has done each year since, flying over from his home in America for the occasion. This year he announced proudly that he had just made his 250th crossing of the Atlantic.
"Sadly, I never met Maisie, who died in 1975, but I came to know a little of her forceful personality through Frank's story. Though he was becoming frailer, his mind remained penetratingly active. Frank radiated love and warmth. Just to see him !nudeone feel better for the experience. We shall miss him."
There will he a personal tribute by Erica Young in next week's issue.