Longtime OLM nun killed, monsignor injured in car crash

A Pepperdine University professor and U.S. ambassador to Malta is also injured in the accident.

By Jonathan Friedman / Associate Editor

A major Malibu religious figure was killed and two others were injured last week Wednesday in a one-car collision just outside the city. Sister Mary Campbell, who had been associated with Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church since 1983, died instantly. OLM Pastor Emeritus Monsignor John V. Sheridan suffered critical injuries and Pepperdine University law professor Douglas Kmiec, who is currently serving as the U.S. ambassador to Malta, was also injured in the accident. The two underwent surgery and are recovering at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Due to the international connections of the three people involved (Monsignor Sheridan and Sister Mary are from Ireland), reaction to the tragedy has come from far beyond Malibu. Nearly 40 people commented on The Malibu Times’ Web site to express their grief for Sister Mary and hope for the recovery of the survivors.

“Malibu has lost a gentle soul who guided generations of our children, Catholic and not, to wholesome adulthood,” Katie Row posted on The Times’ site. “She could be seen in the evening accompanying the monsignor on his daily constitutional. Her death leaves a hole in the community and, I’m sure, a vast vacuum in the monsignor’s heart. God bless her memory as we were blessed by her life.” (See below for more community and worldwide reaction.)

The California Highway Patrol received a report at 1:31 p.m. of the single-vehicle collision in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County on Mulholland Highway, east of Stokes Canyon Road. According to a CHP press release, Kmiec was driving the Hyundai Accent traveling westbound on Mulholland in “light traffic.”

“For reasons unknown, the vehicle drifted to the right off the pavement and onto the dirt shoulder where it collided with a drainage ditch,” CHP spokesperson Leland Tang wrote in an e-mail.

An investigation of the incident is ongoing.

The three were returning from Louisville High School in Woodland Hills, from a 60th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Louis, an Order that included Sister Mary, to the United States. Sister Mary had returned to the United States a few days earlier after spending a month with her family in Ireland.

As of Tuesday, Kmiec, 58, was expected to fully recover from his injuries and be released from the hospital within a week, Pepperdine spokesperson Jerry Derloshon said. Sheridan, 94, was in critical but stable condition at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

“Doctors hopefully have stopped most of the internal bleeding,” wrote Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, in an e-mail to OLM. “They are treating several broken ribs, and they are watching him carefully for signs of infection and/or pneumonia.”

Sister Mary was 74. A memorial Mass took place at OLM on Wednesday morning after The Times went to print.

More than 100 people attended a blood drive at OLM on Tuesday. The Rev. William F. Kerze, head pastor at OLM, said this was an example of the great outpouring from the community in response to the tragedy. “We appreciate all the prayers,” he said in a statement. “We appreciate all the support.”

Sister Mary Campbell was born in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, Ireland on Nov. 28, 1935. She joined the Sisters of St. Louis in 1959, and came to the United States in 1961. Sister Mary taught at several Los Angeles Archdiocese elementary schools. Her tenure at OLM began in 1983. She also served as principal.

Retired from teaching, Sister Mary had devoted her life to taking care of Monsignor Sheridan in recent years, said Sister Brid Long, the regional director of the Sisters of St. Louis and a friend and colleague of Sister Mary since 1966.

“Wherever he went she went,” Sister Brid said. “She was very devoted to the much beloved pastor.”

Sister Mary was well respected and popular in Malibu. Brid credited this to her “sense of simplicity, joy and faith.”

“She was very artistic,” Brid said. “She did a lot of calligraphy. She was a very good teacher. People would describe her as having a happy public personality and endless energy.”

City Councilmember Lou La Monte, an OLM parishioner whose son was a fourth-grade student of Sister Mary, called her “a sweet and kind lady who always had a twinkle in her eye.”

“She was just so great with these kids,” La Monte said. “She taught fourth-grade on purpose because it’s a changing time in their lives. She was kind of the transition person for all these kids. They loved her.”

La Monte called Sheridan “a religious icon in Malibu.”

“It was such an incredibly sad event,” La Monte said of the car crash. “I have incredible sympathy for Doug Kmiec, who is one of the most spiritual men I know. For these three people to be in this car, and for this tragic thing to happen, it’s just unexplainable.”

Sister Mary is survived by her sisters, Noreen, Nancy, Peggy and Sister Zelie and brothers, Jimmy, Frank, Ray, Paddy and Noel. Funeral plans are being finalized.

More information about Wednesday’s Mass online at www.malibutimes.com this week and in next week’s print edition of the paper.

From The Web

The Malibu Times received an unprecedented number of comments from throughout the world on the story posted at www.malibutimes.com, regarding last week’s fatal car collision Following are some of the comments:

“All three of these individuals are amazing people. They have shared their lives, contributed much to the world, and made a huge difference-each in their own way. Please keep them all in your prayers.”-Catherine Scholl

“All of us have lost a very special lady. Sister Mary was so full of love, kindness, gentleness and great loyalty to Msgr. John Sheridan. May she rest in peace in her Heavenly home. May God heal our dearest Cousin, Msgr. Sheridan and bring him back to his Family and friends. We also wish a speedy recovery to Professor Kmiec and best wishes to his family.”- Seamus Kathleen Drum

“R.I.P. Sr. Mary. Our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors the Campbell Family at this sad time.” -Staunton Family, Lisnamaneeagh

“The Sisters of St. Louis, in their grief at the tragic loss of Sr. Mary, reach out today in prayer and love to her family, to Fr. Bill and the entire parish and civic community of Malibu. We invite all to join in prayer for the full recovery to health of our dear friends, Msgr. John Sheridan and Ambassador Doug Kmiec. The comments we are reading on this site are a comfort to all of us. Thank you to The Malibu Times.” – Brid Long, SSL

“R.I.P. Sr. Mary Campbell … wishing also a speedy recovery to Emeritus Monsignor John Sheridan and Professor Doug Kmiec … It was such a shock for all of us here in Malta to hear this terrible news … you and all your families through this very difficult moment … Our prayers go out to all of you.” -Denise Schiavone, Malta

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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