by Barbara Menard
Sheila O’Malley and her son Mike arrived in San Diego in 2007 following her husband, Timothy L. O’Malley, PhD, who came earlier for his position as Vice President for University Relations at the University of San Diego. She quickly became connected to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. She was a Spiritual Reflector, where she journeyed with others in their relationship with God. She was a member of the Regional Advisory Council where she eventually became the chair. She co-facilitated the monthly IVC volunteer meetings leading one of the group discussions. She was the recipient of the IVC Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG) Award in 2016. And on top of all of this, she was a faithful IVC volunteer at the Tomorrow Project, a job readiness program of Catholic Charities’ Homeless Women’s Services in San Diego. She not only assisted in the production of the food products working alongside the homeless women, but she also worked tirelessly to market the products through sales at Catholic parishes, Christian churches and various organizations. She was named the 2016 Volunteer of the Year at Catholic Charities.
These are all things she did…but who was she? Sheila was a Woman of Vision and Dedication. She took IVC from an excellent foundation, and she envisioned growing it across San Diego county. She saw IVC serving people in need, deepening Ignatian spirituality, and spreading the Kingdom of God on earth everywhere. She worked to find placements and reflectors in North County and in East County in order to expand the reach of IVC. She was a Determined Lady who would not take NO for an answer. She worked to obtain sponsorship for IVC from pastors around the diocese. She wanted to match the parish with a specific ministry so that the parishioners could connect to the work and
feel that they were personally contributing to assist people….and she would hound you until you said YES and made a contribution. She even wrote to the bishop to see if he had any space in the Pastoral Center where IVC could have its offices. The only reason Bishop McElroy “got off the hook” was the fact that he was new and needed time to get use to the area…but he never forgot Sheila.
Sheila was a humble woman who was comfortable with foreign dignitaries and college presidents as she was with homeless women. She had such a warm and inviting aura about her, and she could talk to anyone and make them feel at ease. She would also just approach people and make humorous comments. I remember her telling the story of meeting USD graduate Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory.” She just walked right up to him and told him how watching that show was a family affair and then proceeded to have a great conversation.
She was a loving wife to Tim, and devoted mother to her sons Dan and Mike, and his fiancé Lauren. She was a mentor to all and she was relentless in energy, empathy, and enthusiasm. And she was a woman of humor. She could joke about everything…I love the picture of Sheila and the Japanese woman from her trip with Tim to Kyoto…and she entitled it “Which one is the Geisha?” Above all…Sheila was a woman of prayer, a woman of faith and a woman of discernment. Is it ODD or is it GOD? Was one of her favorite sayings….
Sheila (Westby) O’Malley was born on December 30, 1949 to Herbert and Angela Westby in Vancouver, Washington. She was the sixth of eight children. She graduated from the University of Portland, OR in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, where she met her husband of 37 years. Throughout her early career in banking, imports, sales and marketing, Sheila’s true passions—her love of music and her affinity for peace and justice—continued to flourish. Ultimately, she turned to these as her life’s work, leading parish music ministries in Idaho and Oregon, before moving to San Diego and becoming involved with IVC. She died on December 23, 2016 after a brief battle with cancer.