Sister Mary Sheila Fay (1933-2020)
Date and Place of Birth: February 24, 1933 Waterloo, Iowa
Date and Place of Profession: August 16, 1958 Los Angeles, California
Date and Place of Death: September 18, 2020 Notre Dame Center, Thousand Oaks, CA
Sister Mary Sheila, the oldest daughter of William and Eva Fay, was born on February 24, 1933 in Waterloo, Iowa. In 1936, the family moved to California. Three years later, in 1939, the family moved to Maywood. She and her two younger brothers were blessed with parents who provided a Catholic education for all three of their children through high school. Sheila earned a scholarship to Immaculate Heart College and by the age of 22 she had earned a BA in Mathematics, knew she wanted to be a teacher, and prayed about a religious vocation.
Following her graduation from Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, in 1955, Sheila entered the Sisters of Notre Dame whom she had met as an elementary student at St. Rose of Lima School in Maywood. Sheila was invested as a novice, receiving the name Sister Mary La Tier. She later returned to her Baptismal name, Sheila.
During her forty-four years in secondary education, Sister had the distinction of ministering as a teacher, counselor and/or administrator in all four of the province’s high schools. In 1996, she spent the summer in Poland teaching English to a group of young sisters under the auspices of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. Moreover, for fifteen years, Sister volunteered as a reader at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Although this ministry entailed a lengthy commute each week to the studio in Hollywood, Sister later commented, “this service [was] so important to me.”
Sister Mary Sheila loved to read and to travel. In 1977, she participated in the inter-congregational pilgrimage to Namur and later in a Congregational Pilgrim to Rome. More recently, she made “road trips” in the company of Rene Tedesco whom the Fays considered a “fourth daughter” to visit the Native American sites and National Parks in South Dakota, Utah, and Arizona.
Sister was especially close to her two brothers and Jim’s three girls. She devoted her time to e-mailing her nieces her memories of their father and uncle, since she was now the only source of the family’s lore.
Perhaps the quality which most endeared Sister Mary Sheila to her sisters was her ability “to listen.” She gave to each sister her full attention and wise advice. Each came away feeling supported and loved, knowing that whatever they had shared would be held in confidence. Sister Mary Sheila was truly a “Wisdom Woman.”
When Sr. Sheila entered hospice in the spring, she wrote a letter of gratitude to the SND community, family, friends, former students and colleagues. The responses of love and gratitude that came back to her filled her with abundant joy. In her message, she assured us that she would be carrying each of us in prayer during the coming weeks, and we can only imagine that she will be our special intercessor now before the throne of God.
Sister Mary Sheila spent her last years at Notre Dame Center in community service and prayer. She went home to God very peacefully early in the morning of September 18, 2020. As she now experiences eternal joy and peace, the fulfillment of her wisdom, please entrust your concerns to her intercession. We can only imagine the many ways that she will continue the special gift of her friendship. We can be confident that she is interceding for us before our good and provident God.