School Sister of Notre Dame Roberta Tierney, who served as the Diocese
of Rochester’s director of education from 1978-89, died Jan. 21, 2004,
at the age of 65.
At the time of her death, Sister Tierney was serving as parish-life
coordinator for St. Cecilia Parish. Father Kevin E. McKenna, pastor at
the Irondequoit church, remembered her fondly in a statement released
by the diocese.
“She touched so many people’s lives,” Father McKenna said. “People
were her first love. It’s such a tremendous loss for all of us.”
A 1952 graduate of St. Michael’s School in Rochester, Sister Tierney
completed her high-school education at Holy Angels Academy in Fort Lee,
N.J. She entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1956, and began
teaching in 1958 at St. Matthias School in Brooklyn.
In 1962, Sister Tierney returned to the Rochester Diocese to teach
at St. Margaret Mary’s School in Irondequoit. She was named principal
of St. Philip Neri School in Rochester in 1968, beginning a long career
In 1973, Sister Tierney was named assistant superintendent for
curriculum of diocesan schools. A year later, she was promoted to
deputy superintendent of diocesan schools. In 1976, Bishop Joseph Hogan
named Sister Tierney superintendent of schools, a position that
included oversight of diocesan religious education. In that position,
she established diocesan offices for youth ministry and of
At the time of her appointment as superintendent, she was the only
woman attending meetings of the New York state Catholic schools’
superintendents association. In a 1989 interview with the
Courier-Journal ‚Äì the Catholic Courier’s former name ‚Äì
Sister Tierney credited Bishop Hogan and his successor, Bishop Matthew
H. Clark, for easing her acceptance as a female administrator.
“I never felt that because I was a woman and not ordained, I
couldn’t participate,” she said.
After being named education director in 1978, Sister Tierney
facilitated the transfer of the Department of Continuing Education from
the diocesan personnel office to the education division. During her
tenure, she also helped established the Diocesan Board of Education.
Tim Leahy, currently an administrator at Siena Catholic Academy in
Brighton, was deputy superintendent and later superintendent of
Catholic Schools under Sister Tierney.
“She was a quiet, yet effective leader and a passionate advocate for
Catholic education,” Leahy said. “She led in a subdued, dignified
manner and always had the students’ and teachers’ interest at heart.
She will be missed.”
Sister Mary Ann Binsack, diocesan vice chancellor and administrator
of the bishop’s office, served under Sister Tierney as diocesan
director of religious education from 1981-1989, and succeeded Sister
Tierney as education director in 1989.
“I was honored to be chosen to follow someone that I admired so
much,” Sister Binsack said. “She was gentle but firm, visionary yet
willing to do the small tasks. Roberta was my supervisor, but more
important, she was a mentor and a friend.”
Sister Tierney shepherded the diocese’s schools through a
challenging time, Sister Binsack said.
“She loved Catholic education, and her talents and commitment were
greatly needed and used in a time when Catholic schools were on the
decline,” Sister Binsack said. “I remember how hard she worked to form
the diocesan Board of Education so that there would a broader group of
people — lay, priests and women religious — who could offer their
skills and expertise as we addressed educational concerns and
After resigning from her position as education director in 1989,
Sister Tierney took a one-year sabbatical. Following its conclusion,
she went to work for St. Cecilia’s. She served on the Catholic
Courier’s Board of Directors and Editorial Committee from
1995-2001, and was a member of the newspaper’s Strategic Planning
Committee in 2000.
Father McKenna celebrated a funeral Mass for Sister Tierney at St.
Cecilia’s on Jan. 24. Internment took place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Memorial donations may be sent to the School Sisters of Notre Dame
Development Fund, 345 Belden Hill Road, Wilton, CT 06897.