Meet Sister Michela Sheehan

One of 13 children, Michela’s early years were spent in the small lumber town of Eureka, California.  She remembers a childhood where the kids played outside a lot and sometimes snitched rhubarb from a neighbor’s yard.

When her parents decided that they wanted their children to get a Catholic education, the family moved to San Jose where Michela attended Notre Dame High School. During her senior year, Sisters told her they thought she had a vocation, but this was NOT something Michela wanted.  In fact, other than Sr. Monica Julie, the art teacher, Michela didn’t even like the Sisters!

After graduation, she continued her education at San Jose State University and worked in her father’s dress shop. But uneasy in her mind, Michela wondered if she did have a vocation.  Within a matter of months she made a decision and the uneasiness ended. She entered the convent. A decision she has never regretted.

For her first 28 years of ministry, Sister taught and administered in elementary schools in California, Washington and Oregon. She loved teaching and especially remembers her years working at Mother of Sorrows School in Los Angeles.  At first frustrated that the students didn’t seem to be retaining any of the lessons, the Sisters came up with a creative solution and decided to group all the fifth- through eighth-grade students in four ability groups; each teacher responsible for one subject area. What a difference it made!

When Sr. Michela saw women and their children living on the streets in East Los Angeles, she approached the other Sisters living in the convent with the idea of opening a shelter… in the convent!  All enthusiastically agreed and so began “La Posada.” In six years this small shelter helped over 170 women and 300 children. “We truly ran it on a shoestring. It was a lot of work, but wonderful.”

After teaching for many years, then caring for medically fragile babies, she became a foster mother, an experience she thoroughly loved. She also served five years in Nigeria helping Sisters and supervising the work of the lay teachers telling them, among other things, “not to use the cane on the students.”

TCL time.

At home now in Sacramento, Sr. Michela keeps very busy volunteering at two hospitals and a food bank. Her years of working with fragile babies comes in handy at Sutter Memorial Hospital where she works one day a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, doing whatever needs to be done, including holding babies suffering from withdrawal.

As Sister celebrates 60 years as a Sister of Notre Dame, she describes her journey in five words: “It’s been a good life.”


  1. Happy Jubilee, Michela! Thank you for the sharing of your life of ministry in all the various fields! Thank you for your visit to Kitale when I was there and your efforts to visit Lodwar!!! You did reach South Sudan! Thank you for your big part in alerting me to Solidarity with South Sudan. I am very grateful and happy to be here in Malakal!
    Much love,

  2. Happy Jubilee, Sister!! I am so proud of you and grateful for the time you spent with me and my classmates at Mother of Sorrows, Los Angeles. Although it wasn’t the most desirable part of the city, I was certainly blessed with a wonderful education I received from you Sister, and the Sisters of ND.

    I often smile when I think of the stories you told me about Mother of Sorrows and become emotional when I think of my school Principal, Sister Michela. I can still picture you with your black/white uniform and habit on.

    I wouldn’t have made it through life without you and the Sisters of ND. Thank You, Sister! God bless you!

    Dave S.

  3. Sister, I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the students at Mother Of Sorrows. I was one of the lucky ones to have had you as my eight grade teacher in in the 1981-1982 school year. I always think of you fondly and am happy to know you have had a “good life”. God Bless You always.
    Veronica Machuca-Sears

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