Sr. Mary Emmanuel Donnelly

Principal, Notre Dame High School

Sister Mary Emmanuel Donnelly. Photographer unknown.  Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Archives, Belmont.

Sister Mary Emmanuel Donnelly. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Archives, Belmont.

Do you remember Sister Mary Emmanuel? She was principal of NDSJ for fourteen of the years between 1949 and 1968. Mary Beth Riley, now principal of the school, recalls, "There were stories about the ‘old days’ that painted a picture of a strict principal patrolling the hallways to make sure that the girls were passing to their classes in silence and that their uniform skirts hit the floor when they knelt. I could feel my own knees quaking when I envisioned the scene! Eventually, I realized the important role that she had played for this school. She was the pioneer who built Donnelly Hall, Julie Billiart Hall, and the convent which later became the Student Life Center. More recently, she was so happy for the vision for a new Notre Dame High School, the school we know today."

Well known among Notre Dame graduates – she also served at Notre Dame high schools in Belmont, Watsonville and Marysville and at College of Notre Dame. Sister also coordinated California State Federation of Notre Dame Alumnae for many years. Then, at age 65, she launched a whole new ministry as pastoral minister at St. William Parish in Los Altos. "She really become the heart of the parish," says Fr. Michael Burns who was the fourth pastor to work with her. "She took all that she was and knew as an educator and threw herself into every aspect of parish life."

Sister died on December 12, 2005, having been a Sister of Notre Dame for 67 years.