Archbishop Keough Takes Center Stage On 'The Keepers'

by Caralynn Lippo

The tagline for Netflix's new series The Keepers asks "Who killed Sister Cathy?" The main subject of the seven-part documentary series is the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a Baltimore nun (and former Archbishop Keough High School English and drama teacher) who went missing and was found strangled and beaten nearly two months later. Today, the nun's death is a nearly 50-year-old cold case. But now, former students are alleging that her killing may have had something to do with the high school's clergy sex abuse scandal, leading many to wonder: Is Archbishop Keough still open?

Technically, Archbishop Keough no longer exists in the form it operated in at the time of Cesnik's death — years later, it merged with another Baltimore high school (Seton High School). As the Seton Keough High School website's History explains, the merger between the schools happened in September 1988. Seton had been named for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Keough had been named after Francis Patrick Keough (the Archbishop of Baltimore from 1947 to 1961). According to the history, the boards of both schools met in 1987, exploring the possibility of merging to combine "the best of both schools — facilities, faculties, students, and equipment — to assure the future of Catholic secondary education for women in the Archdiocese of Baltimore." In the fall of the next year, Seton moved out of its prior location into the newer Keough building.


The two schools became Seton Keough High School and remained open for the next nearly-30 years. But on Oct. 26, 2016, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced their intention to close Seton Keough at the end of the current school year, along with two other Baltimore Catholic schools. They also decided to merge two other schools. The decision came at the same time as the release of the results of the archdiocese's study of Baltimore Catholic schools, which found that they would need millions more dollars of investments to keep the schools' facilities competitive with other local private schools.

The closing at the school comes at a coincidental time, given the upcoming release of The Keepers. Though the two events are unrelated, the show focuses on the sex abuse scandal reported at the former Archbishop Keough High School during the 1960s and 1970s, at which time Father Joseph Maskell (one of the central and most prominent figures accused of abuse by multiple former Keough students) was the chaplain and guidance counselor at the school. Maskell denied the allegations and claimed to know nothing about Cesnik’s death prior to his own in 2001.

Suffice to say, there's a good chance that the high school will be heavily featured throughout The Keepers as it explores how the scandal and Cesnik's death could be connected — making Keough a "character" (of sorts) of its own in this ongoing saga.