Sr. Lourdes Sheehan, R.S.M., the first director of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and an instrumental force as it began its teacher formation efforts, died Thursday, June 1.
Sr. Lourdes left her post as secretary of education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to direct ACE in 1995, giving it immediate and widespread legitimacy during its formative years.
“ACE gained tremendous credibility among the superintendents because of Sr. Lourdes Sheehan’s reputation and influence,” said John Staud, the executive director of ACE. “By moving to Notre Dame and living in Cavanaugh Hall, she witnessed her conviction in ACE as a new and important movement to sustain and strengthen Catholic schools.”
At the time, ACE was solely a two-year teacher formation program that led to a master of arts degree in teaching. In the 30 years since then, that program has become known as ACE Teaching Fellows, and ACE has grown to include an additional degree program, two licensure programs, and multiple other initiatives to support Catholic schools.
Sr. Lourdes served Catholic schools extensively, including a second stint as secretary of education for the USCCB after leaving ACE. She was the first woman to serve as the USCCB’s secretary of education.
A native of Georgia, Sr. Lourdes was the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Richmond, the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Catholic Education, the executive director of the Department of Chief Administrators of Catholic Education, the executive director of the National Catholic Educational Association, and the associate general secretary of the USCCB. She also served as the assistant provincial administrator and provincial administrator for her order, the Sisters of Mercy.
The newest members of ACE Teaching Fellows, now in its 30th cohort, will gather for the start of their program this Friday and will celebrate the opening Mass in her memory.
Funeral arrangements are pending. You can find Sr. Lourdes’ obituary here.