Our Sister’s Keeper

Why Notre Dame should still be affected by Keough’s Past and Present

By Ciarese De Torres

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It’s not every day that something as immense as Netflix casts the spotlight on the streets of Baltimore. Yet on May 2017, Netflix released a series titled The Keepers, which brought into light the fifty-year-old secrets kept within the halls of Archbishop Keough High School–an all-girls, Catholic high school that was just nine miles away from Notre Dame.

Amidst the horrifying stories of abuse shared by the school’s former students, the heart of the series lies in the mystery surrounding the death of Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik, a nun who taught English and Drama at the school. Sister Cathy herself had deep connections to the university, as she was a fellow School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND).

Interestingly enough, those are not our only ties to Keough. There are a few students at Notre Dame who graduated from the school. “It’s not the same exact school as the one in the Keepers,” assures Samantha Benton, a freshman and fellow Keough graduate who is currently majoring in English and Spanish.

Indeed, it was not. Seton Keough High School was founded in 1988, after merging both Archbishop Keough High School and Seton Keough High School. But a month after the release of the show, the high school officially closed its doors.

When asked how her experience at Keough influenced her decision to attend Notre Dame, Benton recalls, “Keough was small, but this further established such strong relationships with faculty and students. My school helped shaped me by showing my potential for what I want to do. I felt that same sense of safety and belonging here [at Notre Dame], being in a community of strong women who support one another.”
For an institution that is predominately Catholic and a center for women’s education, Notre Dame has yet to acknowledge anything about Keough or our connections to the school.

Nevertheless, as we commemorate all the triumphs of past and present women for Women’s History Month, let us also not forget the hardships and tragedies many women faced now and back then.

To Sister Cathy and to all the former students who have courageously spoken about their abuse at the school, we hold you in our highest regards.

Photo by courtesy of Netflix.com

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