Sister Cecilia Wallace (1931 – 2022)

We remember with gratitude the life of Sister Cecilia Wallace who was a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur for 73 years. Sister Cecilia went home to her good God on October 23, 2022, at the age of 91.

Mary Cecilia Wallace entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at Saratoga, California, following graduation from Notre Dame High School in San Jose. A caring and respected educator, she served as teacher and administrator for Notre Dame Schools in Marysville, Redwood City, Millbrae, San Carlos, and Saratoga in California, and Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.                                                                       

In 1977, a phone call from the Provincial Superior set Sister Cecilia on a new path. The Sisters wanted her to be Superior at Notre Dame Villa, which proved to be one of the most treasured experiences of her life. "I will never forget the peace among those elderly sisters," she recalls. "There was true happiness in that house." After six years at Notre Dame Villa, Sister Cecilia served as CCD Director for St. Lucy's Parish, Campbell, and, later, Religion Coordinator for Resurrection School, Sunnyvale.

In her retirement years Sister Cecilia continued her volunteer ministry of outreach to others and support to her companions in community. She moved to the Belmont Province Center Residence in 2014, and in 2020 to Mercy Care and Retirement Center in Oakland.

Daughter of Edward and Mary Agnes Finnigan Wallace, she is lovingly remembered by her brothers William, Patrick, and Robert Wallace, her sisters Beverly Cain and Roberta Held, family, friends, former students, and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and by her caregivers at both Oakland Heights and Mercy Retirement Center, where Cecilia was much loved and cared for. She was predeceased by her parents, sister Carol Decarli and brother Donald Wallace.

The funeral for Sr. Cecilia was held Friday, November 18th at the Sisters' Province Center, Belmont. She will be laid to rest at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

When Sister Cecilia Wallace reflected on her life, she found a sense of fulfillment and inner peace. “It is hard to explain,” she said, “but it’s about being able to be there for people and the children.” And Sister Cecilia is certainly there for people. As Sister Liz Tiernan related, “no matter how often she was called on for help or advice, her natural serenity, faith in God, and belief in Notre Dame, remains constant. She is a quiet light, embodying all that is good about religious life."

For more than 20 years, Sister Cecilia taught and was principal in Notre Dame elementary schools throughout California, Oregon and Washington. “She was a good principal,” recalled Sister Bernie Garcia. “She loved helping out, nothing fazed her and she was always very calm and very loving.”

Sisters Vivian Snow, Jeanette Tredway, Ann Carmel Badalamente and Cecilia Wallace floating on Truckee River at Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Rita Gleason, a retired principal of Notre Dame High School, Belmont, was in Sister Cecilia’s first grade classroom at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Redwood City, California. “She taught me to read, to write, to think and to reflect,” Ms. Gleason said. “She modeled what I tried to do as a principal: be attentive to one student at a time and let each one know that they are a special part of the Notre Dame community.”

Sister Cecilia Wallace with former student Rita Gleason.

A startling phone call from the Provincial Superior set Sister Cecilia on a new path. The Sisters wanted her to be Superior at Villa Notre Dame, a ministry that became one of the most treasured experiences of her life. “I will never forget the peace among those elderly sisters,” she recalled. “There was true happiness in that house.”

After six years at Villa Notre Dame, Sister Cecilia was asked to be the CCD Director for St. Lucy’s Parish, in Campbell, California, and later, religion coordinator for Resurrection School in Sunnyvale.

Everyone can agree with Sister Liz when she said, “Sister Cecilia is a wonderful person beloved by all, Sisters, staff, parents and pastors—all who are or were fortunate enough to know her. She is a gem!”

Looking back, Sister Cecilia said, “I answered the call to belong to Notre Dame and I am grateful.” Sister Cecilia Wallace was a true daughter of St. Julie – filled with love for the mission, strongly spiritual, unassuming, and accepting of all.

– by Sister Liz Tiernan, SNDdeN

Sister Cecilia's Ministries


Notre Dame School, Marysville, Calif.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Redwood City, Calif.
St. Francis of Assisi School, Seahurst, Wash.
St. Dunstan Elementary School, Millbrae, Calif.
St. Charles Elementary School, San Carlos, Calif.
St. Stephen Elementary School, Portland, Ore.
St. Mark’s Elementary School, Shoreline, Wash.
Sacred Heart Elementary School, Saratoga, Calif.

Province & Community Services

Villa Notre Dame, Saratoga, Calif.
St. Lucy School and Parish, Campbell, Calif.
Resurrection School and Parish, Sunnyvale, Calif.

To make a gift to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in honor of Sister Cecilia, please click here.

Friend Sister Vivian Snow, SNDdeN (far left) with Sister Cecilia Wallace, SNDdeN and family members in 2009.