What Did Sister Cathy Teach? The Dedicated Nun Inspired Her Students
Netflix's true crime series The Keepers begins with the disappearance of Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969. Her body was found two months after she went missing, but there was little evidence to indicate what had happened to her or why someone would want to kill her. Cesnik was a 26-year-old nun and teacher living in Baltimore, and though she taught at the Catholic high school Archbishop Keough for just a few years, she had a profound impact on her students. But what did Sister Cathy teach?
It turns out that Cesnik taught English and drama, and apparently she had quite a flair for both subjects. It seems like nearly every student who passed through her classroom had a positive impression of her, particularly the girls at Keough. Being relatively close to their age made Cesnik relatable, someone young and cool who they could talk to about anything. Both in The Keepers and in interviews about the case, Cesnik's former students only have glowing things to say about her: she was an inspiration, she was their favorite teacher, she was so approachable and comforting. She was a genuinely good teacher who was skilled at imparting knowledge and making her students excited about the books they were covering.
In the HuffPost article "Buried In Baltimore," which is about Cesnik's disappearance, the young nun is described as being like Maria from The Sound of Music. She was known for playing guitar with her students both on-campus and off, and even wrote musicals for them. She taught them Romeo and Juliet, then followed it up by taking them to the then-newly released 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version (notable for its dreamy lead actor). Cesnik invented games for her students. She made learning fun. In an article for the Baltimore Sun, former student Gemma Hoskins said, "Catherine Cesnik is the reason I became a teacher. I still regard her as the finest teacher I ever had."
That was a sentiment echoed by many, with the same article citing another student as saying, "She was our Pied Piper. The kind of teacher you never forget." The girls at Keough loved and trusted Cesnik so much that many of them reportedly confided in her about the abuse they were allegedly being subjected to by another member of the faculty, counselor Father Joseph Maskell (who denied initial accusations until his death in 2001). So her death hit them all very hard and still resonates with many of them today.
Cesnik's story is an unspeakably tragic one. But she was a truly kind and compassionate person who wanted to do right by the students in her care. And that's a meaningful legacy to leave.