WASHINGTON (February 23, 2006)—Mercy Sister Lourdes Sheehan, associate general secretary at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been awarded the Holy Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and pontiff) medal by Pope Benedict XVI.
The papal award, dated December 5, 2005, was presented to her January 27 at the USCCB, from which she will retire in March. The medal is bestowed on lay persons and clergy "to honor those especially zealous in outstanding service," the accompanying certificate noted.
The honor was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. The medal can be gold, silver or bronze. The medal awarded to Sister Sheehan is gold. The cross is octangular and its ribbon is purple, with white and yellow lines on each border.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, recommended Sister Sheehan for the papal award.
"Sister Lourdes Sheehan has given exemplary service to the Catholic Church," he said. "Her service has spanned a career which most recently involved top-level administrative responsibilities with the U.S. bishops' conference. Before that she was an educator of national renown. She demonstrated leadership in parish schools, dioceses and the University of Notre Dame, as well as in her religious order and at the National Catholic Educational Association. She has brought honor to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, where she is a member of the Baltimore region, and to the Archdiocese of Washington, where she resides."
Sister Sheehan will shortly complete a five-year term as associate general secretary at the USCCB. Before her appointment to this position she served two terms as the U.S. Bishops' Secretary for Education.
Sister Sheehan is a native of Georgia. As an educator, she served as director of secondary education, superintendent of schools, and director of Christian formation for the Diocese of Richmond.
After her first term as the USCCB Secretary of Education, Sister Sheehan was named director of the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame. She returned to the Conference in 1999.
Sister Sheehan has also served as executive director of the Department of Chief Administrators of Catholic Education of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and of the National Association of Boards of Catholic Education.
Within her religious community, Sister Sheehan served as the Provincial and also a Councilor for her Sisters of Mercy Provincialate.
Sister Sheehan holds a master's degree in colonial history from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in educational administration from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. She is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Outstanding Service to Catholic Education from the NCEA and the Catholic School Executive Leadership Award from Fordham University, New York.