Sister Catherine Phelps, longtime Trinity School principal, dies

Sister Catherine Phelps, who headed the Trinity School in Howard County for more than four decades, died of leukemia June 15 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 86.

Born Elizabeth Mae Phelps in Baltimore and raised in Washington, she was the daughter of William Elwood Phelps Sr., an A&P grocery store manager, and his wife, Marie Catherine Hohman.

She attended Saint Francis Xavier School in Washington and Maryvale Preparatory School in Baltimore County.

She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the order’s motherhouse in Ilchester, and received the name Sister Catherine. She later received a degree at Fordham University in school administration.

“She was an extremely gifted individual who would have been a success in any career she chose,” said the Rev. Christopher Whatley, pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Catonsville. “She was academically gifted, tremendously well-organized and had a keen insight into human nature. She took a simple elementary school and transformed it into a paradigm of Catholic education for the 21st century.

“She had a capacity for compassion which manifested itself in the FISH of Howard County, an organization that helps the unfortunate,” said Father Whatley. “She was beloved by her family and highly respected and cherished by the Sisters of Notre Dame.”

Sister Catherine taught at St. Martin’s School in Washington and at Maryvale, and became principal at St. Ursula School in Parkville.

She then arrived at Trinity School in 1971, and headed the Ellicott City school for 47 years.

She led the construction of a new middle school and media center and refurbishment of buildings that served students from kindergarten to the eighth grade.

“She never retired and remained in constant motion,” said her sister, Paula Dodson of Waldorf. “She had a true vocation to the religious life. She was a loving and giving person.”

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 30 Melvin Ave., Catonsville.

In addition to her sister, survivors include another sister, Linda Koper, also of Waldorf; and four nephews.

--Jacques Kelly

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