Sister Eileen Clifford, Held Archdiocesan Leadership Posts, Was Longtime Principal at Msgr. Scanlan


Sister Eileen Clifford, O.P., who served nearly two decades as a vice chancellor of the archdiocese and earlier as associate vicar of education and principal of Msgr. Scanlan High School in the Bronx, died Aug. 27 in Siena Hall at Dominican Convent, Sparkill. She was 82.

In 2002, Cardinal Edward Egan appointed Sister Eileen as vice chancellor, a leading position in the archdiocesan chancery she continued to hold under Cardinal Dolan until last year when she retired to the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.

At the time of her appointment, she called the vice chancellor position “a challenge,” one that she was eager to accept because of the expanded scope it offered.

“I like challenges,” she said.

Sister Eileen initially served on a committee set up to review the parishes and schools of the archdiocese to see how resources and services should be allocated to best meet current and future needs.

She later was one of the key senior staff members in the archdiocese working closely with then-Auxiliary Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan, vicar general, on the Making All Things New pastoral planning initiative. Sister Eileen facilitated sacramental research, which she shared at meetings throughout the archdiocese. (Bishop Sullivan is now Bishop of the Diocese of Camden, N.J.)

From 1993 to 2002, Sister Eileen was associate vicar for education in the archdiocese, serving under Msgr. Thomas Bergin, a retired priest of the archdiocese, who was then vicar for education.

Msgr. Bergin, in an interview last week with Catholic New York, remembered Sister Eileen with great appreciation and fondness for her leadership and collaboration.

“She was the best, a remarkable woman,” Msgr. Bergin said. “She gave great credibility to our office.”

Sister Eileen used her experience in educational administration and teaching to capably handle the daily workings of the office. “She was hard-working and respected by everybody,” said Msgr. Bergin, who went on to cite Sister Eileen for her competence as well as her skills working with people.

One of her projects was responsibility for the coordination of the High School Task Force, which studied the high schools of the archdiocese on a regional basis.

“She was also a great principal,” Msgr. Bergin added. “She did a great job at Msgr. Scanlan.” Sister Eileen served for a quarter-century at Msgr. Scanlan High School, including 14 years as principal, from 1979 to 1993. She also was assistant principal, 1975-1979, and a teacher of French, religion and language arts, 1968-1975.

During her tenure at Msgr. Scanlan, Sister Eileen oversaw the merger of the boys and girls schools into a single coeducational high school.

She earlier taught at St. Pius X School, Scarsdale, 1967-1968; St. Helena, Bronx, 1964-1967 and 1959-1960; St. Catherine of Siena, Manhattan, 1963-1964; and St. Agnes Home and School, Sparkill, 1958-1959.

She also taught in Schenectady at St. Madeleine Sophie School, 1960-1963.

Born in the Bronx, she entered the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill in 1955 and professed final vows in 1962. She was formerly known as Sister Theresa Deborah.

Sister Eileen received a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, and a master’s in educational administration/supervision from Fordham University.

She received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from St. Thomas Aquinas College in 2009, and she was inducted into the college’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1999.

Sister Eileen is survived by her nephew Stephen Clifford and nieces Donna Clifford, Patricia Stelling and Cecilia Garbarino as well as grandnieces and grandnephews.

A Funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 2 at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, Sparkill. Burial was in St. Agnes Cemetery, Sparkill.