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Newspaper strike silenced coverage of murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik

Catherine Cesnik, the School Sister of Notre Dame known to her students as Sister Cathy, disappeared on a Friday night, Nov. 7, 1969.

By the next afternoon, her disappearance was big news. Reporters and photographers fanned out across Southwest Baltimore. The old News American lead headline said, “City Police, K-9 Dogs Press Hunt for Missing City Nun.” Reporters noted that she cashed her $255 paycheck before her disappearance. A Muhly bakery box was found in her abandoned Ford Maverick that was parked illegally near her North Bend Road apartment.

She would remain a missing person nearly two months. But readers of daily newspapers wouldn’t learn that a father and son discovered her body on Saturday morning, Jan. 3, 1970, while hunting in a remote area off the 2100 block of Monumental Ave. in Lansdowne.

The day before, both The Baltimore Sun, with its morning and evening editions, as well as The News American, had been silenced by a strike of the pressmen’s union. There would not be another paper for 74 days.

The weekly Arbutus Times reported the story five days after police converged on the remote site. The Catholic Review, also a weekly, said that Sister Cathy’s requiem Mass was held at her order’s motherhouse at Charles Street and Bellona Avenue.

As the strike wore on, Baltimore’s businesses felt its effect. New and used car sales were off 30 per cent, and attendance dropped for the games of the Baltimore Clippers and Bullets at the Civic Center. When the strike ended, the papers’ presses again rolled on March 17, 1970, more than 10 weeks after the nun’s body was discovered.

The documentary that focuses on her death, “The Keepers,” is released May 19 on Netflix.

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