BELOVED EDUCATOR SISTER HELEN LORCH
Sister Helen Lorch accomplished much in her 100 years of life, including being a wife, mother and community volunteer, but she is best remembered by University of San Diego alumni as a beloved nun who taught history and served as a counselor and “house marm” in the women’s residence halls.
She greeted students by name from her customary seat at Founders Chapel when they arrived for Sunday night services and was a fixture at all Toreros home basketball games for many years.
Before her life as a nun, Lorch was the wife of a prominent San Diego physician and helped start the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary in the 1950s. She was also involved in establishing the Legion of Mary volunteer group at St. Agnes Parish.
After the death of her husband, Alvin, in 1962, she joined the Religious of the Sacred Heart order of nuns. She had become familiar with the nuns when she started attending what was then the San Diego College for Women, which the Sacred Heart nuns, most notably college co-founder Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill, had started with Bishop Charles Francis Buddy.
She would later spend more than 30 years at the campus as an educator and director of women’s residence halls.
After retiring, she moved to Oakwood, the Sacred Heart retirement center in Atherton, Calif. in 2002.
Sister Lorch died of natural causes Nov. 28 in Atherton at the age of 100.
Former student and colleague John Trifiletti ’78 first met Sister Lorch when he was a freshman at USD. She was teaching a history class and alluded to her grandchildren during the course of her first lecture, he recalls.Trifiletti was surprised to learn she had been a wife and mother before she became a nun.
“She was a woman who really lived a full life. She was a very prominent San Diegan before she became a nun. She was very proud of Dr. Lorch and her children. She also had great respect for the religious and admired Sacred Heart.”
Trifiletti, former USD director of alumni relations, says that “legions of USD alumni” were part of her extended family. “She was engaged in every aspect of campus life practically from the time she stepped on campus. She really understood kids.”
Sister Lorch regularly led student retreats in Julian and she had an apartment in the residence halls, where her door was always open to students.
“She was our supporter and our friend,” says USD School of Law Center for Public Interest Law Director Julie Fellmeth ‘83, “She was an inspiration to us. We felt free to go to her and confide in her. She loved us and we loved her.”
In 1991, Sister Lorch was the first recipient of the Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill award, which is presented annually to a distinguished USD alumnus. Sister Lorch received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of San Diego (in 1958 and 1968, respectively). — Blanca Gonzalez
A version of this article originally appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.