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Former Archbishop Sheehan diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

The Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael J. Sheehan on March 4, 2014. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Former Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan sent a letter to the archdiocese Thursday informing it that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“There is something I need to share with you now,” the 79-year-old writes in the letter. “Although my general health is very good, in my recent annual physical my doctor diagnosed me with the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sheehan writes that his doctor has prescribed medication to slow the disease but “it is not a cure.”

Sheehan resigned in 2015 at the age of 75 after serving as archbishop of Santa Fe since 1993; he was replaced by current Archbishop John Wester.

“We’re keeping him in our prayers,” Wester said during a phone interview Friday. “He served the archdiocese very well, and very selflessly, for many years. We wish him all the best.”

Sheehan took the helm during a time of turmoil, including the resignation of previous Archbishop Robert Sanchez over allegations of sexual relations with women and amid mounting lawsuits in the sex abuse scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church locally, nationally and internationally.

As a result of the scandals, it was reported that the archdiocese dealt with nearly 200 lawsuits – totalling over $50 million in settlements – and removed more than 20 priests accused of sexual misconduct.

“At the moment I feel just fine and I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this Earth doing the things I have always done,” Sheehan writes in the letter. “I can still live independently and I will continue to serve where I’m needed and as I am able.”

Sheehan mentioned he was advised against “driving long distances” alone, but cheerfully noted that he still gets exercise regularly.

“I believe it is important to share this sad news with you in my desire for transparency,” he wrote. “I ask for your prayers for my health and well-being as I keep all of you in my prayers as well.”