The Reverend Robert Francis Shea
Eighth Pastor of St. Mary
1977 – 1985
Fr. Robert Francis Shea was born on June 14, 1927 in Lowell, MA to John and Cecile Shea. His father was a type-setting in the printing business, and his mother was a homemaker. One of three children, Robert grew up in Quincy, MA and attended public schools.
For college and theology, Robert studied at St. John Home Mission Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was ordained a deacon in 1954 in Little Rock by Bishop Albert Fletcher, and he was ordained a priest on May 19, 1955 by Bishop Vincent Waters in Raleigh. He celebrated his First Mass of Thanksgiving at Sacred Heart Church in North Quincy, MA.
Fr. Shea’s first assignment was at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Newton Grove. During the ensuing years, he served at the Seymour Johnston Air Force Base in Goldsboro and Catholic parishes in Smithfield, Tyron, Monroe, Lexington, Mocksville, Lenoir, Kinston, and Durham.
In July of 1977, Fr. Shea came to St. Mary Parish as its Eighth Pastor. Because of his welcoming nature, sunny disposition, and great sense of humor, Fr. Shea was a most beloved pastor for the community.
Following St. Mary Parish, Fr. Shea became the founding Pastor of St. Luke Parish in Raleigh in 1985 where he served until 1994. The founding of St. Luke’s was his greatest joy as a priest. He then served as Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Roanoke Rapids from July 5, 1994 until his retirement on July 11, 2000.
On the diocesan level, Fr. Shea served as the Chair of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal; this he saw as the greatest challenge of his priesthood.
Even today people in the Wilmington community talk about how Fr. Shea welcomed them so warmly to the parish. Today Fr. Shea lives in Southern Pines, NC.