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Sister Catherine Cesnik case: Nun's Students Sad, Quietly Concerned

Nov. 10, 1969 Evening Sun: Nun Students Sad, Quietly Concerned

The students in Sister Catherine Cesnik's English class this morning were faced with a substitute teacher and no word about the search for their missing instructor.

Two or three students asked Miss Dorothy M. Kell, principal of Western High School, if she'd heard anything. "But most of the students have been very quiet about it," Miss Kell said.

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Sister Catherine, 26, was tallying grades for the end of the term Friday and told her department head, "I'll finish this on Monday."

Missing Since Friday

But by this morning, substitute teachers were conducting her speech and English classes while police kept an open file on the young woman, missing since Friday evening.

Sister Catherine, a nun on special leave from the School Sisters of Notre Dame, is not well known by many teachers at Western. "She's a fine teacher," Miss Kell said, "but she's only been here two months."

And very few people at the school knew she belonged to a religious order. Miss Kell commented that when she checked the teacher's background, she only knew that Sister Catherine had taught last year at Archbishop Keough High School.

Joseph Cesnik (right), discusses the disappearance of his daughter with a friend (left) outside her apartment on Nov. 10, 1969.
Joseph Cesnik (right), discusses the disappearance of his daughter with a friend (left) outside her apartment on Nov. 10, 1969. (Richard Childress/The Baltimore Sun)

"Fine Teacher"

"My concern is how well she's teaching English," the principal added. "And she's a very fine, cooperative teacher."

Mrs. Shirley Schloss, head of Western's English department, characterized the missing woman as having "real compassion for the students. It's really a tragedy," she said.

Another teacher, who wouldn't give her name, said she knew Cathy Cesnik when they both attended classes at Notre Dame College. "But I don't think Cathy would want a lot of publicity about this," she added.

"Classroom in Order"  

"Everything in her classroom is in beautiful order," Miss Kell stated as she glanced at the bulletin boards and desk. "We're all very fond of her," she nodded.

Miss Kell spoke to each of the missing woman's classes today and said she would let them know if she received any more information.

The 11th and 12th graders looked concerned and one sad-eyed girl asked "have they stopped looking for her?"

The principal believed Sister Catherine got along well with her students but that she didn't have any favorites.

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All the advice Miss Kell could give the students was "don't listen to any rumors."

The Baltimore Sun is republishing archived coverage of the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, which is the subject of a Netflix documentary series set to debut May 19. Cesnik, a 26-year-old Baltimore nun, was reported missing in November 1969 and her body was found in Lansdowne in January 1970. These stories appear as they were originally written in The Sun or The Evening Sun. 

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