Sr. Maureen Christopher dies

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The Bishop O'Connell High School community in Arlington is mourning the loss of Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Maureen Christopher Dusterhoff, who died Jan. 21 at Camilla Hall in Immaculata, Pa.

Sister Mo, as she was known to students and colleagues, taught, among other things, AP Government and Principles of Economics for 30 years at the Arlington school. A long-time chairperson of the social studies department, she broadened the school's curriculum, mentored scores of young teachers and touched the lives of thousands of adoring students.

Sister Mo joined the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary after high school. She earned her bachelor's degree from Immaculata College (now Immaculata University), before receiving her M.A. in History from Villanova University. She professed her vows in 1955.

She taught in schools in Pennsylvania and Virginia before settling at O'Connell in 1985. An entry in the 1986 yearbook acknowledges Sister Mo's immediate impact on the school community. "This year the O'Connell family was blessed with Sister Maureen Christopher, a tremendous asset to the faculty. Her blazing trumpet and acute wit have truly added to this year."

"Sister Maureen Christopher loved learning herself, and she loved the learners she taught," said Head of School Joseph Vorbach.

"She was an icon," said Greg Haas, O'Connell's social studies department chair. "Sister Mo was that teacher every student remembers. She stood out for her passion, a no-nonsense attitude, and a brilliant sense of humor. More than anything else, she cared. She cared about Catholic education, about Bishop O'Connell, about her colleagues. She cared about her students. And it showed. She marched through pep rallies to standing ovations as she led the students in 'Seniors Rule' chants before taking her place with the rest of the faculty."

"She was proud that she had all the latest gadgets and was using them in the classroom," added Student Life Director Frank Roque in a recent blog entry on the subject of Sister Mo, where he explains the moniker that she gave herself-"techno-nun."

To say that Sister Mo is lovingly remembered by the O'Connell community is an understatement. Many students and faculty members tell stories of her presence in the Trinidad Street lobby every morning and how she made it a point to engage with anyone and everyone. Others remember her pre-Christmas traditions with her government classes, where the students "caroled" throughout the building. The songs sounded like familiar Christmas songs, but the lyrics were taken from government and economics concepts.

"She truly was what I.H.M. Sisters would call 'a school woman,'" said Sister Catherine Hill, I.H.M. "She was someone who loved to teach and was totally energized by being with high school kids and with her colleagues."

The school was closed Jan. 26 to allow faculty and friends to attend the viewing and funeral, which were held at Camilla Hall. A memorial Mass and reception were held Jan. 28 at O'Connell.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015