Sr. Colleen Hennessey, former St. Michael’s president, dies at 92

By Clarion Herald Staff

School Sister of Notre Dame Colleen Hennessey, a native of St. Louis who served in education in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, including three years as president of St. Michael Special School, died Aug. 19 at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, Mississippi.

She was 92 and had served for 74 years in religious life.

Sister Colleen is survived by her brother, Thomas J. Hennessey and his children Thomas Hennessey (Michelle), Mary H. Recker (Ronnie), Colleen H. Motz (Steve), Patricia H. Smyre, Kevin Hennessey (Linda) and Timothy Hennessey (Rita), and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her father, Thomas Hennessey, and her mother, Alice (Lamb) Hennessey.

Sister Colleen entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1945 and professed her vows in 1948. She received a B.A. degree from Webster College, a master’s in education from DePaul University and a doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Sister Colleen taught every grade level, from kindergarten through graduate school. She taught and was in administration in schools in Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. She served as diocesan supervisor of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 1961-67, often taking the streetcar or bus to visit schools.

After earning a doctoral degree in education – her dissertation was on multicultural education – she was appointed dean of the department of education at the University of Dallas.

In 1972, she began 26 years of service as superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Among her many initiatives were developing health care protocols and expanding the availability of nurses and guidance counselors in schools and increasing the availability of special needs classes.

She also was noted for her outreach to the Jewish community in Houston.

After Sister Lillian McCormack died in 2000, Sister Colleen’s superior asked her to serve as president of St. Michael Special School. Despite being treated for cancer, she served there for three years  before retiring from education and ministering to the homebound at St. Angela Merici Parish in Metairie.

Her funeral Mass was celebrated by Father Suresh Thirumalreddy Aug. 23 at St. Teresa Church in Chatawa.

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