Sheehan, Michael (1870–1945), catholic archbishop, was born 17 December 1870, at Newtown, Waterford, son of Cornelius Sheehan, merchant, and his wife, Anne Lawlor, both from Waterford. His family lived in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, from 1880. Educated privately and later at St Augustine's College, Dungarvan, and St John's College, Waterford, he went to St Patrick's College, Maynooth in 1890, where he achieved first place in mental philosophy, natural philosophy, English and French, and a solus in Italian. He was appointed professor at St John's College, Waterford, before reaching the canonical age for ordination. Ordained in 1895, he was appointed professor of classics in Maynooth in 1896, before taking a postgraduate course in classics at Oxford. He studied at the University of Greifswald, Germany in 1897, and was conferred with an honorary DD by the pontifical university of Rome before receiving his Ph.D. at Bonn university in 1900, returning to Maynooth the same year. At Greifswald he acquired an interest in the Irish language, under the influence of the Celtic scholar, Prof. Heinrich Zimmer (qv). In addition to his college work, he was for many years chief examiner in Latin under the intermediate board and later chief examiner in Greek.
On the death of Monsignor Gerard Molloy (qv), Sheehan was elected commissioner of the intermediate education board from 1907 until it ceased to function in 1922 and was vice-president of Maynooth from 1919 until 1922. In association with Richard Henebry (qv) and Pádraig Ó Cadhla (1875–1948), he founded Ring College in 1906, with the idea of restoring a Waterford gaeltacht, and teaching spoken living Irish to students who would visit Ring for a summer course or a short period without interfering with their normal schooling. He organised the building of a large residential college in Ring in 1909 and, spending his holidays with the Irish-speaking fishing people of Ring, he soon learned to speak and preach in Irish. He was president of Ring College from 1906 until 1922, equating the Irish language with national freedom and he supported the 1916 rising. Like P. H. Pearse (qv) he believed that although to be patriotic was one thing, to enjoy the full fruits of patriotism was another; and the full fruits could not be even savoured by those contemptuous of the Irish language.
He was appointed coadjutor to the archbishop of Sydney, Dr Kelly, in 1922, and consecrated titular archbishop of Germia at Maynooth on 21 May 1922. In Australia he acquired a high reputation and devoted himself to improving educational standards in catholic colleges, and placing catholic education on a proper footing in relation to the state. He founded a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in the parish of St Benedict, Sydney, as well as a small Irish-speaking school. At mass he encouraged children to recite prayers and sing hymns in Irish. He also brought out an Irish paper, An Gael–An Dord Féinne, in the 1920s. He paid a visit to Ireland in 1933, and after spending the greater part of his holiday preparing A child's book of religion, returned to Sydney in 1934. Over a quarter of a million copies of this book were sold all over the English-speaking world.
Resigning his titular archbishopric in June 1937, he returned to Ireland where he lived at Talbot Lodge, Blackrock, Co. Dublin and at his bungalow in Ring. He was appointed a count of the papal court in 1938 with the right to assist at the papal throne and other privileges. He devoted the rest of his life to writing, his main task being the completion and publication of his earlier work, Apologetics and christian doctrine (part 1, 1918, part 2, 1931). This was a standard textbook in catholic secondary schools up to the 1960s. He was the author of Seana chaint na nDéise, studies in the vocabulary and idiom of Déise Irish, based mainly on material collected by himself, and ten other books on the Irish language. He also wrote articles for the Catholic Bulletin, Green and Gold Studies and the Irish Ecclesiastical Record.
Sheehan died 1 March 1945 at a Dublin nursing home and is buried at Ring.