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Celebrating the Life of Sister Carol Wheeler, RSM

Portrait of Sister Carol Wheeler by Sister Judy Ward

Sister Carol Estelle Wheeler
September 9, 1936 – May 15, 2021

Sister Carol Wheeler, RSM, a pillar of our Mercy Education community, died May 15, 2021.

While principal of Mercy High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where she continued in administration until her retirement in 2013, Sister Carol was among those pioneer sisters who founded Mercy Secondary Education Association (MSEA) in 1982 and served as the first MSEA president.

“She believed, so much like Catherine McAuley, that a Mercy education had significant influence in the lives of students, teachers, families and the communities in which Mercy schools existed,” said Sister Cathleen Cahill, RSM, a longtime educator and administrator in the Chicago area. “Carol also believed that collaboration with other Mercy educators would strengthen and extend that influence.”

Sister Carol’s vision for MSEA continues to animate the work of Mercy Education today. The late Sister Judith Heberle, RSM, wrote in her 1982-1989 history of MSEA about Sister Carol’s address at the 1987 Mercy Education Conference in Clarkson, Michigan:

Sister Carol Wheeler challenged members of MSEA to the conviction that: “We, as educators in the Mercy tradition, have something exceptional to offer in education at this time,” and “that the quality of education we offer could be strengthened by greater collaboration” among our schools, by thinking of our schools and the teachers in them as “connectors,” by being mindful of “what is happening in our world – of significant currents, trends, movements, realities” and by addressing these issues directly and/or “have our awareness of them inform the way we educate. ” Carol also called attention to “the fact that more and more the future of the Mercy tradition in secondary education will depend on the lay colleagues of the Sisters of Mercy – most of whom are in Mercy schools because they value the tradition.”

Photo courtesy of Mercy High School in Baltimore

Sister Carol saw education as part of the DNA of the Mercy charism, rooted in Catherine McAuley’s own devotion to the edification of women and children. “Her deep love for the value-based, Mercy tradition … led her to embrace innovative ways to sustain that specific educational tradition in complex present and future realities,” said Sister Helen Marie Burns, RSM, educator and congregational leader with experience in mission integration in higher education and health care.

Sister Mary McCarthy, RSM, former principal and president of Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut, and leader in MSEA and in the formation of the Network for Mercy Education and Mercy Education, shares: “Carol’s commitment to the strength of connectedness made her a valued voice as over the last 40 years programs, initiatives and structures evolved to sustain the Mercy Charism in secondary education and at all levels of education.” Mary continues, “She was a visionary who loved Mercy education and worked tirelessly for it.”

Sister Corinne Raven, RSM who served in administration at Mother McAuley High School, Chicago, and with the Network for Mercy Education writes: “As the first president of the Mercy Secondary Education Association, and throughout her life, Carol called us all to believe in the power of Mercy education. She inspired us to further the Mercy charism in the tradition of Catherine McAuley and responsive to the needs of the times.”

Standing on the shoulders of Sister Carol and the other visionary “founding mothers” of Mercy education, we carry forth our mission as Mercy Education to nurture highly competent and deeply compassionate leaders ready to serve a vulnerable world.

Mercy Education invited contributions from and is grateful to Sisters Helen Marie Burns, Cathleen Cahill, Mary McCarthy, Lourdes Sheehan and Nancy Thompson, the early leaders with Sister Carol in the formation of the Mercy Secondary Education Association, and Sister Corinne Raven. Special thanks to Sister Judy Ward, RSM, for her portrait of Sister Carol.

Memorial Mass of Remembrance – Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Memorial Mass of Remembrance will be held at 10 a.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 8501 Loch Raven Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland. Due to COVID-19 restrictions at this time, capacity is reduced at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church to approximately 350 worshippers. The liturgy will be livestreamed at and No RSVP is required for the Memorial Mass of Remembrance.

Learn more about Sister Carol Wheeler

While this tribute focuses on Sister Carol’s contributions to Mercy education, you can read more about Sister Carol’s ministry at Mercy High Baltimore in The Baltimore Sun and Catholic Review.

Honoring Sister Carol Wheeler

Gifts in Sister Carol’s memory may be made to the Seraphia Scholars Fund at Mercy High School. Sister Carol established this endowed fund for tuition assistance. Gifts can be made here.

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