45 Years after Their Inspiring Teacher Was Murdered,

          Former Keough High Students Are Still Asking Why

By Tom Nugent


When Gemma Hoskins was a student at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School back in the late 1960s, she had an English teacher who was “bigger than life” and possessed “a gentle and loving heart.”

That wonderful teacher became a role model for Hoskins, as well as “a symbol of integrity, honesty and strength.”

Indeed, the Keough High student was so inspired by the School Sisters of Notre Dame nun that she went on to become a teacher herself.

During a 36-year career in which she taught at elementary and middle schools in Harford and Baltimore Counties,  Hoskins relied on the lessons she’d learned from her teacher at Keough.  Fiercely determined and deeply passionate about her own vocation as a teacher, she set the highest standards for herself.

Nobody was surprised when Gemma Hoskins – while teaching fifth-graders at Jarrettsville Elementary – was named the 1992 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Asked later how she developed the skills and attributes required for excellence in teaching,  Hoskins credited her former teacher, “Sister Cathy” – 26-year-old Catherine Ann Cesnik of Pittsburgh, Pa. Said Hoskins: “Those traits [of hers] I have tried to exemplify, no matter what the situation.”

But Sister Cathy also taught Hoskins a lesson about tragedy.

That lesson began in earnest when the gentle nun with the bright smile and the boundless energy was brutally murdered during Gemma’s senior year.

The nun’s mutilated body was found more than 44 years ago – January 3, 1970 – on a garbage dump in Lansdowne, a few miles south of Baltimore.

The case has never been solved.

For nearly half a century, Hoskins and many of her fellow Keough alumni have been wondering why Cathy Cesnik met with such a terrible fate.  They’ve also been deeply troubled by numerous allegations that have emerged over the years . . . allegations of widespread sexual abuse at their school which were enumerated in a $40 million, 1990s Baltimore sex-abuse lawsuit and have been frequently reported in the news media.

The carefully documented reports by more than a dozen former Keough students paint a dark picture of rampant sexual abuse at Sister Cathy’s southwest Baltimore Catholic high school – abuse that she reportedly tried to confront and expose during the days right before her mysterious death. Indeed, in recent days, two different witnesses have reported that they visited the nun’s apartment the day before she died . . . and begged her to help stop the sexual abuse.  They say she told them she was about to “go public” with her information about the abuse – and then vanished less than 24 hours later.

In an effort to better understand what happened to their beloved teacher, who died after suffering severe head injuries and is buried in a Pittsburgh hillside cemetery, several Keough graduates recently formed a social networking group devoted to learning as much as possible about her unsolved murder.

After creating a Facebook page – “Justice for Catherine Cesnik and Joyce Malecki” (a second Lansdowne murder victim, her killer also never found, who died four days after the nun and who has recently been linked to the same confirmed priest-abuser who reportedly injured at least 20 Keough students during that era), the social activists say they’re hoping to uncover the truth about both of the murders.

Said Gemma Hoskins, while describing the Keough group’s urgent mission: “Cathy was once there for many people and did the right thing.

“Now we all need to try to do the right thing for her.”



Memories of Sister Cathy


After nearly 45 years of hoping that Sister Cathy’s murder would eventually be solved, many of the Keough grads who recently created the “Justice for Sister Cathy and Joyce Malecki” coalition fear they’re running out of time.

“Sister Cathy’s murder has always haunted me,” said Abbie Schaub, a retired nurse and 1970 Keough grad.  “They describe her killing as a ‘cold case,’ but it’s never felt cold to me.”

Another 1970 graduate, retired Maryland Human Services Administrator Mary Jo Woods, said that “Sister Cathy was a wonderful teacher who taught us how to think for ourselves.  She wrote a lovely play about young girls who are growing up, called ‘Lollipops to Roses.’  She often stayed after school with me to make sure I got caught up.”

Mary Spence, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital RN, said, “I want to see this case solved, because there are so many people that were affected by it.  They need to be able to put it behind them and move on.”

Like her classmates, retired Baltimore-area bookstore manager Susan M. Getka said she was deeply touched by the killing of Sister Cathy.  Getka recently wrote a poem about her death, titled “The Pen in the Palm of her Hand.”


. . . God, her head ached now.
What hit her?

A fist, a stone, a hammer?
Fragile bones shattered – flying
a mystery exploding – solved . . .

Her faint thread of consciousness
seconds longer
Enough time to see the pen
to feel her hand touch the grass &
find the tree root.
Her hand rested on it
Her Spirit now in God’s Embrace


Said Getka, “I think Sister Cathy would want her students to speak up about what happened, and to try and help young women who are still being abused today.”


            While declining to comment on the unsolved murders of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki, an FBI spokesperson said that “If anybody has any information about [these cases], they need to call the Baltimore County Police Department cold case unit [at 410-887-3943].

To read the Baltimore County Police Department Unsolved Case Squad report on Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder:

22 responses

  1. Recent dan testing of fr.mask ells body has reportedly cleared him I had read (don’t know if it’s true) a serial killer was loose at that time.


  2. Mr. Nugent, I started Archbishop Keough in 1979. We were treated to another sick priest, Father Steve Girard, during my years there. Girard hailed from St. Clements Parish as well. I am wondering if he was ever questioned, as his time in Baltimore over lapped with Maskell’s, I believe. Girard was arrested for male prostitution, drugs, etc.. Thank you for all you have done , seeking justice fro Sister Cathy, and giving voice to the abused.


    • Steve Girard was a poor excuse for a priest and human being. He was at St Claire’s in Essex in the 1980’s. The first time I saw him, I knew he was evil. Turns out my instincts were right. I wouldn’t doubt he had ties to Maskell


  3. I’ve often wondered, with so many religions preaching the same love and peace stuff, why is our world filled with violence, secrets, bullies, corruption, and addictions? Guess the Sister Cathy story shows us what is actually behind the sacred wizards’ curtains.


  4. Were these priests reported directly to the pope. The lady priest who gave the blunt written answers should be reported to the pope. A campaign should be set into sack him.


  5. The FBI NEED TO TURN OVER THE DOCUMENTS CONCERNING THE MALECKI MURDER NOW. I believe it may have to due with Sister Cathy. Both need to be SOLVED and the CHURCH needs to hang its head in shame for what they allowed to happen to these children, to Sister Cathy and possibly Miss Malecki.


  6. After watching this stunning Netflix documentary, it struck me that you should attempt to locate all the secretaries working in the Diocese during those time periods of abuse. No clergy members were typing their own documents –but communication/ documents were certainly composed (although likely destroyed). A thought.


  7. I have just finished watching the Netflix documentary “The Keepers” and I am angry at Baltimore County police and the Catholic church. The people who had the power to do something did nothing except what has always been done when it comes to the Catholic church and the sexual abuse by priest. They look the other way. Baltimore should be ashamed by their lack of actions they allowed two women to be murdered and the countless children that were sexually abused SHAME! The Catholic Church should be held accountable for what happened and continues to happen to the children by priest. Sadly the Catholic church is wealthy and when money is involved you have greed and power. To all those who have been sexually abused and physically abused IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT! My heart goes out to all of you continue telling your stories and fighting. I believe strongly the Catholic church murdered the two women by allowing the actions of Father Maskel to continue. I believe we have been told the truth by all those who have told their stories. Father Joseph Maskel killed Sister Cathy and Miss. Malecki now there must be a reckoning…….


  8. Hi this is so sad I’m steel watching the documentary and how police was corrupt and the poop not doing the wright thing in this country that I know is powerful in the law, we’re is human wright I don’t​ understand why is been so long to resolve the murder Soo much mystery,,, something similar Happened ln my country 45 and continue years ago but over there is worse..but here in USA is no way,,I’m so sorry for Tha family and friends


  9. After all this evidence how can you still believe in MEN and CATHOLIC Religion they protect priest who are crooked . People are FUNNY they have FAITH in MEN THEY are not GOD they take advantage of people because of their positions and PEOPLE get fooled by them. THEY THINK PRIEST are GOD what a MISTAKE. I am a Man who lost faith in MEN . I will never vote for a man ever./ WHATS IMPORTANT for a MAN is CONTROL and MONEY and SEX and DOMINATION.


  10. i’m from brooklyn, new york and just finished watching the keepers. i graduated from catholic high school in 1970, so found this whole documentary happening around the same time i was in school. went to catholic school for 12 years but wasn’t aware of any of this happening until actually the mid-90’s when a priest from my parish who was a wonderful priest with the children,was suddenly not there anymore. i hurt for sister cathy and all those ruined by these horrific experiences. there but for the grace of god go i.. god bless you all and wish you all peace and prayers.


  11. Tom, seems that a very wide web appear to be involved in this cover up. Very unlikely that this case will be solved any time soon. As you say at the start ” Interesting on a whole lot of levels” Tavistock institute in ” sussex”and University of Pensilvania have something in common. Camera focusing on SS in SSND on gravestone. Retired cop strongly hints that a baton may have been used( my guess and even that could be a decoy) . 3 newspapers strike on Jan 2, body found next day ! Ventre the dates of Cathy and Joyce’s body discovery’s and see what ” Emerges” Check out the date and content JFK speech at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in new York in 1961! Less a case of who’s involved, more a case of whose NOT Involved. But yes the Boil keeps growing !!! All the best to you.( Got a feeling we might have Wexford connections. Just a hunch!)


  12. If they have DNA from Sister Cathy’s crime scene they should download it into . Then they will get relatives DNA, leading to the actual murderer.


  13. Tom–THANK YOU for all the investigative work you’ve done on these topics over many years. Would you please contact me at my email?


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