Sister Louise O’Reilly has given her heart and gifts to many ministries. She taught in Notre Dame elementary schools in California and Hawaii and was principal of Mission Dolores in San Francisco. She has served as formation director for the former California Province and Development Coordinator for Moreland Notre Dame School in Watsonville, Calif. She enjoyed working at the Mission Office for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Francisco. “I loved faith formation with adults and helping them to be effective liturgical ministers,” she says, “I also loved planning liturgies and prayer experiences.” Sister Louise spent 10 years service in leadership for the sisters in California, and now serves as the Director of Mission Integration for the West Region of the U.S. East-West Province.
Louise was a student at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, when Sister Mary Reginald commented one day, “You have such a nice smile. Have you ever thought of being a sister?” Louise didn’t know what having a nice smile had to do with being a sister, but she felt at home among the sisters, with their motto “God is good.” She says, “That belief was very strong in my own faith life.”
For all sisters, it isn’t why they entered religious life that is important, but why they have stayed. For Sister Louise, these reasons have clarified and deepened along the way. “It was getting to know the community more fully, the prayer life, the influences of Vatican II renewal years, discovering the story of our foundresses, just growing up and being stretched and challenged.”
Vatican II changes were being implemented as Sister Louise entered the novitiate. The richness of the Council documents resonated with her. There were challenges too. She says, “The Council also put religious life in a state of on-going change that has sometimes been very unsettling. Many Sisters left. We lost convents and had to forge new ways of living community. Spiritual direction and centering prayer became an important part of my life.”
Sister Louise loved teaching. One of her favorite memories is of a three-grade religion class in Watsonville when she was teaching about Jesus. "One little girl raised her hand and asked so sincerely, 'Do you know him?’ Now there’s a question!”
Sister’s life in Notre Dame has been rich and filled with unexpected blessings. She names especially the trust and confidence the community has placed in her for ministry and leadership, and the opportunities to experience the diversity and internationality of Notre Dame. When celebrating 50 years as a sister, Sister Louise said, “I am grateful for our Notre Dame community, the sisters I’ve lived with, the many people I’ve worked among and learned from, and my family and their own examples of fidelity and living life well.”