Published January 16, 2020
SAVANNAH—Sister M. Valentina Sheridan (Theresa), RSM, died peacefully in her sleep on Jan. 14 at Mercy Convent in Savannah. She was 88 years old.
She was born on June 29, 1931, in Macon, to Valentino and Theresa Cassidy Sheridan. Sister Valentina is preceded in death by her parents and her brothers, Valentino, Richard and Donal. She is survived by a large family of nephews, nieces, cousins, her religious community of the Sisters of Mercy and many dear and longtime faithful friends, both near and far.
Sister Valentina attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School and Mount de Sales Academy, both Sisters of Mercy schools in Macon. She graduated from Mount St. Agnes College in 1957 and attended the University of Dayton.
Sister Valentina entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy on Sept. 8, 1949. She attributed her religious calling to her grandfather “Poppa” who would take her to daily Mass in Macon, then go and visit the sick afterwards. She would recall, “He had such a lovely way of speaking to people. He was my inspiration for religious life.”
After taking final vows on Aug. 16, 1955, Sister “Val” worked as an elementary school teacher at various schools in Baltimore, Maryland and Macon then went on to become an elementary school principal in Augusta and Atlanta. From this jumping off point in 1974, Sister Val took on the role of superintendent of elementary education for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Her magnetic personality and gracious smile endeared her to all she met. She loved working with various diverse groups as the position required and soon felt a calling to take her vocation to another avenue.
In 1980, Sister Val took on a new role that would be her career. She worked as the pastoral assistant at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta. She loved being with the members of the parish in their joys and sorrows. In 1987, she was the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta, and later became the parish administrator. Sister Val was never one to lose a friend and these parishioners were faithful to her and often traveled to Mercy Convent in Savannah to visit with her years later.
Considering these wonderful experiences, she took a further path for her religious life. She went to the Franciscan Health System in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to become a hospital chaplain. From there, Sister Val became a fixture in pastoral care at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, serving from 1995-2015. She walked the halls and was a messenger of light, consolation and hope.
Sister Val, being tall and regal, with a warm smile, was welcomed by staff and patients alike. She would offer a prayer, a joke or a smile—whatever was needed. Sister retired from full-time pastoral care at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital, in 2015 and moved to Mercy Convent in Savannah, where she took up part-time pastoral care work at Saint Joseph’s Candler Health System before permanently retiring in 2017.
Upon retirement, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, then archbishop of Atlanta wrote to her: “God has blessed you with a superb vocation, spanning the whole spectrum of church life-religious life, community life, education, administration, health and human services—you have grown in the Lord, to ultimately exercise a gentle but firm authority, put in you by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and well-tempered by the gentle love and outpouring generosity of the same Jesus Christ.”
The Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday, Jan. 17 at 10 a.m. at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Savannah. Interment will be at Friday, Jan. 17 at 4 p.m. at Riverside Cemetery, Macon.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital or the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Convent 11801 McAuley Drive, Savannah, GA. 31419. Read more about Sister Val’s Ministry in Atlanta.