Helen Manning Lorch

Helen Manning Lorch, RSCJ

Birth: Aug. 23, 1910
Profession: Jan. 25, 1970
Death: Nov. 28, 2010

Helen Manning Lorch, wife, mother, widow, and Religious of the Sacred Heart, died November 28, 2010, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart retirement center in Atherton, California.

The older of two girls, Helen was born to Maude Peavey Manning and Daniel R. Manning, in Newton, Iowa, on August 23, 1910. After twelve years of public school education, she attended St. Theresa’s College in Winona, Minnesota, before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and, later, to the University of Iowa, Iowa City, where she met and married medical student Alvin H. Lorch. During her husband’s five years of preparation to become a surgeon, Helen began a teaching career in Iowa City.  

The Lorches moved to San Diego when Dr. Lorch joined the staff at Mercy Hospital. In the early 1940’s, the Lorch children, Michael and Sherry, were born. Helen was also active in the Mercy Auxiliary, joined the state association of doctors’ wives, and eventually became vice-president. In the late 1940’s, she met and fell in love with the Religious of the Sacred Heart, as they made preparations to open the San Diego College for Women in Alcala Park. As Helen completed her college education there and began a masters’ degree, her husband died of ALS.

On September 15, 1963, Mrs. Lorch entered the novitiate of the Society of the Sacred Heart in El Cajon, California, where she began teaching part time at the University of San Diego (USD), then known as the College for Women.

On March 19, 1966, Sister Lorch pronounced her first vows as an RSCJ. She moved to USD where her distinguished career as assistant professor of history, counselor, and resident director began. In 1969, she spent four months of preparation for final vows at Woldingham, England, followed by profession of final vows in Rome on January 25, 1970. For the next thirty-two years, Sister Lorch became a legend at USD, beloved especially as “house marm” by generations of students.  Her room on the dorm floor was always open and alive with dorm students.  

In 2002, at age 92, Sister Lorch joined her RSCJ sisters at Oakwood, where her great sense of humor and light-heartedness gave life to the community. On August 23, 2010, Helen was joined by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as her religious sisters, for the celebration of one hundred years of life—a two-day bonanza!

On November 28, Helen had joined her sisters for an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the Oakwood chapel; and, as a nurse wheeled her back to her room, she suffered what appeared to be a heart attack. When paramedics arrived, she asked not to go to the hospital, but to go to her room. As nurses put her into bed, she peacefully died.

The funeral Mass for Helen Lorch, RSCJ, will take place at 10 a.m. at Oakwood, 140 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton, CA, 94027, on December 18, 2010, to be followed by burial in the Oakwood cemetery and a community gathering for “sharing of memories.” Memorial contributions may be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4120 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 623108.

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Submitted by Terri Cleveland on

Sr. Lorch was my counselor at USD, 1973 - 1977.  I remember walking into her office for my first meeting as a student at USD, and she knew everything about me without having to refer to notes. She made me feel welcome and loved.  I was a person, not a number.  She was also my history teacher.  I loved her so!  Terri Cleveland