By Jerry Duggan
June 17, 2021 – As pastoral administrator and director of the work at St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Ann Sheridan is responsible for “just about everything that goes on at the parish.”
Although she has served in this role for less than a year, it did not take long for Ms. Sheridan to get a feel for the breadth and depth of this position.
“There’s so much going on at our parish,” she said. “We have a number of very active groups, committees and organizations; there’s maintenance, finance, buildings and grounds too. Sometimes it feels like I’m the traffic cop at a very busy intersection, making sure that we are all working together toward our common goals.”
St. Francis Xavier, a large, urban parish, had a traditional leadership structure until 2020, when Fr. Mercier chose Ms. Sheridan, the business manager at the parish, for this role. At that same time, a new pastor, Fr. Jim Caime, SJ, was also installed with the chief responsibility of overseeing the spiritual needs of the parish.
“Fr. Caime ultimately reports to me, but we are partners in everything that we do,” she said. “We collaborate and bounce ideas off each other, with the goal of advancing the parish mission.”
While Ms. Sheridan has many responsibilities, she tries to employ a people-first approach.
“I like to think of myself as a connector and a communicator more than an administrator,” she said.
She tries to prioritize people over administrative tasks. Often this means phone calls, responding to emails, or, in a post-pandemic world, face-to-face meetings with parishioners and groups.
Ms. Sheridan uses the Society of Jesus’ four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) as a guide in her work and remains cognizant of the fact that everything at the parish must work together. For example, the parish’s justice and life objectives must work in concert with those of the parish’s adult faith formation program.
Part of the reason Ms. Sheridan’s work is so vital is because managing a parish can simply be too much for a pastor to handle.
“Being a pastor comes with many responsibilities, even under our current arrangement,” she said. “Before, a pastor was in charge of everything for the whole parish. It’s unreasonable to expect any one person to handle all that. That’s where I can help: I’m here to support and here to serve.”
Ms. Sheridan believes her appointment as director of St. Francis Xavier says less about her own credentials than it does about the Jesuits as a whole.
“Having a married, lay woman in this role sends a signal to everyone that women’s voices are welcome, lay people’s voices, the voices of people of color, LGBTQ are all welcome,” she said. “God’s Church is for all, not the few, and to be truly committed to social justice, to service, to equality, we have to have a seat at the table for everybody.”