A Champion for Education, Sister Eileen Enright, RSM Retires from Cristo Rey High School

In 1857, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Sacramento and began instructing local children in the basement of St. Rose of Lima Church. Within the first year, the school room was full. The Sisters went on to establish St. Joseph High School and to teach throughout the Sacramento area.

Education for the underserved remains central to Mercy Foundation’s mission today and perhaps no one better exemplifies this enduring commitment than Sister Eileen Enright, RSM.

Sister Eileen came to Cristo Rey High School in 2011 after decades of service as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent for Catholic schools of the Sacramento Diocese. At the time, Cristo Rey was struggling to become established. A passionate advocate for education with the “can-do” spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Eileen rolled up her sleeves, and got right to work. She had the vision to move the school to a larger campus, better suited to Cristo Rey’s unique blend of academics and real world career experience. With the assistance of generous donors, Cristo Rey students were attending class in their beautiful new building within four years.

During her time as President, Cristo Rey has grown, expanding from 230 students to 379. Graduation rates that started at 42% have steadily risen, and last year 100% of the senior class graduated. This means that Cristo Rey High School, which serves only low-income families, is now outperforming the national average by 20 percentage points. Perhaps most impressively, 96% of last year’s graduates went on to attend college or university. 

In 2016, Sister Eileen celebrated her jubilee as a Sister of Mercy, marking 50 years of consecrated life. Last year, after careful consideration, she decided to retire as President of Cristo Rey at the conclusion of the 2017/2018 school year, in order to reflect on what God is calling her to do next. 

Sister Eileen has been an inspiration, a catalytic leader, a mentor and a friend to so many in the Cristo Rey community. “I think Sr. Eileen is extremely inspirational in that, as a parent, I think we all want something better for our kids. And here, her children are all the students at Cristo Rey,” says Mike Genovese, a generous donor and Mercy Foundation Board Member. “She has given students an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

“Sister Eileen never talks about the students without tears coming to her eyes,” says Sister Michelle Gorman, RSM, “that tells me how much she really loves her students and how much she relates to the importance of education for each and every one of them.”

Mercy Foundation has been honored to work alongside Sister Eileen to galvanize the support of our generous community. “Any donor who has given to Cristo Rey should know it got spent properly,” explains Terry Street, Mercy Foundation board member and generous supporter of Cristo Rey. “A frugal Irish sister can be a rock star when she takes control of a checkbook, and Sister Eileen made sure that every dollar we raised was spent for the right reasons.”

No matter what Sister Eileen chooses to do next, she will always be an important part of the Cristo Rey story and a much beloved member of the school community. Perhaps Cristo Rey Board Chair, Jim Cuneo, put it best when he said, “we simply wouldn’t have a Cristo Rey High School without Sister Eileen.”

Thank you, Sister Eileen, for your passionate commitment to Catholic education and the light of knowledge you have brought to so many young people in our community. We are blessed to have you in Sacramento!