Education and Health Care Rooted in Faith, Compassion, and Mercy

Sister Kathleen Horgan, RSM, reflects on spreading Mercy in Sacramento

For over 65 years, Sister Kathleen Horgan, RSM, has lived a life of exemplary service, leadership, determination, and kindness. Steeped in the Mercy spirit since her high school days in County Cork, Ireland, she looks back fondly at her career and can trace her excitement back to her very first day in the Sacramento area. “When I boarded the plane at the Shannon Airport it was snowing, but when I finally arrived in Auburn, I was greeted by the most beautiful roses in full bloom on the fence. I was delighted, nervous and, of course, a little tired–and through it all I knew my calling was to live and share the Mercy mission.”

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree and Master’s degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Francisco, Sister Kathleen earned a credential in Education Administration and began her career in education in 1957 as a fifth grade teacher at Holy Spirit School. She later served at four additional schools in the Sacramento area: Holy Cross School, Sacred Heart School, St. Joseph’s School, and St. Robert School—as a teacher of fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, and later as principal.

Sister Kathleen says, “Teaching is a wonderful calling, and definitely a vocation. I loved the kids and I loved the strong, inclusive community of students, families, faculty, staff, and administrators. I was blessed to not only teach school, but to also experience life’s ups and downs with each of the families–to be included in their joys and sorrows was a tremendous honor.”

She shares other treasured memories too. “Students at one school taught me how to roller skate. They held a party for me and gave me a B grade—begrudgingly,” she laughs, “because I didn’t do that well. At another school, she says, “the parents taught me to bowl, and would take me every Saturday night. The families were, and still are, very, very good to me.” 

Throughout her remarkable 34 years in education, Sister Kathleen taught hundreds of students and, unsurprisingly, not only maintains strong friendships with many of them but also has grown close to their children and grandchildren too. 

In 1992—after a yearlong sabbatical where she studied theology and ethics at Notre Dame, Mt. St. Mary’s in Los Angeles, and All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland—Sister Kathleen was sent to St. John’s University in New York to study health care and went on to serve in the Sisters of Mercy’s health care ministry at Mercy General Hospital. She readily agreed and served in a variety of positions, including Mission Services Director, as the hospital’s Sister Liaison, and with the volunteers at the Main Lobby’s Information Desk. 

With great admiration for the work of her colleagues she says, “In our hospitals, each member of the team—no matter what their position in the hospital—looks out for our patients and for each other. Even after all these years, their deep compassion and support still impresses me. I loved working with families and was truly delighted to be helpful during their challenging times.”

Sister Kathleen is quick to share her appreciation for the community donors who continue the mission of the Sisters of Mercy to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the under-resourced and care for the sick. “We are deeply blessed to know so many in this great, loving community who continue our work and share our belief that Mercy is having a heart of love, for everybody.”  

To Sister Kathleen, thank you for your rich legacy of excellence, kindness, and compassion. Generations of students and patients, who are now leaders in our community, are fortunate to share the treasured heritage of your ministry, and like you, carry forward the Mercy Mission.