The God of Second Chances
An Ohio native, Nancy moved to California and settled in Los Angeles in 1974. She worked for a non-profit free clinic where she served as controller and grant writer to help clients receive healthcare. She also met Chuck Sheehan, a striking air-traffic controller, married him in 1982, and together, raised a daughter, Sarah Sheehan.
After Chuck’s death in 2001, Nancy took in two teens: Priscilla, who was thrown out of her foster home and Brandon, who lived in conflict with his stepfather. A long-time caregiver, herself, Nancy also turned to a spiritual director and a therapist for help in knowing how to move on and find meaning in her life.
Although she had never been drawn to religious life at a young age, this turning point in her life caused her to want to deepen her relationship with God. As strange as the idea seemed at first, she began to pursue the possibility of being part of a religious community. She learned about various religious and lay groups. At one of the Religious Education Conferences in Los Angeles, she heard Notre Dame de Namur Sister Barbara Fiend speak, and met Sr. Annette Burkart at a Diocesan vocation booth there; she felt an affinity with both of their outlooks on life and ministry.
As a person who had been concerned with issues of peace and justice her whole life, she was inspired by St. Julie’s concern for children, the poor and the abandoned, and felt a calling toward religious life and ministry with the poor. Sr. Annette introduced Nancy to other Sisters in the community, including the Sisters at St. Columbkille Parish in Los Angeles. And Nancy continued her work with the homeless in downtown Los Angeles.
With the support of her children, now in their thirties, and by friends who saw her happiness and sense of peace, Nancy entered the Notre Dame de Namur community in 2007. Nancy made first vows in the Province Center Chapel in Belmont, in February 2011, surrounded by her three children, close friends and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
She began working at St. Louise de Marillac Parish, in Covina, handling marriage preparation, bereavement and general counseling, visiting the sick, assisting with quinceañera celebrations and annulment preparation. Through the auspices of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Nancy participated in a round-table made up of pastors, ministers and rabbis working with therapists and social workers to advance the concept of spirituality and mental health.
Sr. Nancy celebrated her final vows in 2016 at St. Louise de Marillac Church. Parishioners, staff of the LA County Department of Mental Health, and others were thrilled to witness the ceremony. Many Sisters flew or drove to Los Angeles to attend the celebration.
Grateful for her own call to religious life, Sr. Nancy was eager to encourage other women like herself to consider finding meaning as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. In 2017 she was named Director of the SNDdeN Ministry of Invitation/Vocations in the United States. She continues to live in Los Angeles, and now serves to find other young and not-so-young women who may be attracted by religious life.