Sister Lourdes Sheehan, named Mary de Lourdes by her family, was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Joseph and Valerie Sheehan on January 23, 1935. Her parents, two siblings, and many nieces and nephews were extremely important to her during her 88 years.
Sister Lourdes entered the Sisters of Mercy in the Baltimore Province at Mt. Washington in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953. She began her ministerial life as an educator in Columbus, Georgia, where she was the sole teacher in the newly founded Holy Family/Pacelli High School. This challenging experience began her long ministry as an educator. She is fondly remembered by her students.
After completing a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, she taught at her alma mater, St. Vincent’s Academy in Savannah, Georgia. Sister Lourdes then became the principal of Convent of Mercy High School in Mobile, Alabama, and went on to be the principal of Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Georgia. These years of educational leadership prepared her for her roles as the director of curriculum development and superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Richmond in the early 1970s.
Her educational accomplishments include a doctorate in Educational Administration from Virginia Tech University and several honorary degrees. Her commitment to and expertise in Catholic education led her to become the executive director of the National Catholic Educational Association, secretary for education for the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and the director of The Alliance of Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. She wrote Building Better Boards, published in 1995, to assist Catholic schools in this critical area of development.
Sister Lourdes served the Mercy Community in leadership from 1982-1985. In 2001 she became an Associate General Secretary for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Reflecting her lifelong commitment to the enhancement of Catholic education, Sister Lourdes received numerous awards, both national and local.
When she returned to her greatly loved Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, Sister Lourdes continued to promote professional leadership. She served the St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System in Savannah by developing the Leadership Academy Program to foster excellence in current and future leaders.