Goretti students recall late sister

October 05, 2000

Goretti students recall late sister

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer

Former students of Sister Sharon Dei said they will miss the teacher, friend and mentor who shaped their lives at St. Maria Goretti High School in the 1960s.

Sister Dei, 63, died Sept. 29 when a blood clot went to her heart after ankle reconstruction surgery in Baltimore.

It's been more than 30 years since Sister Dei taught English and pioneered the drama program at the Hagerstown school, but her former students say her strength and compassion is unforgettable.

"She always made you feel important," said Michael Harsh, who teaches English and drama at Hagerstown Community College. "A lot of people say part of the reason they are the adult they became is because of her positive influence, care and concern."

Harsh, who attended St. Maria Goretti from 1965 to 1969, credits Sister Dei for leading him to a career in education.


Sister Dei was raised by her grandmother in Pittsburgh and entered the Baltimore order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1954.

She taught at St. Maria Goretti from 1965 to 1971.

"She was intelligent and bright and had common sense. Her answer to everything was to have a good meal, a good night's sleep and feel better in the morning," said Marie Salgado, who remembers taking Sister Dei's American literature class when she was 14. "She encouraged everybody to reach his or her potential simply by her example and encouragement."

"She was the kind of person you wanted to do a good job for," Harsh said.

Many still recall the huge spring musicals Sister Dei led.

"She made Goretti musicals a big deal. The rest of the school year was anticlimactic after the spring musical," said James Martin, a math teacher at Goretti who taught with Sister Dei for two years.

After she left Hagerstown, Sister Dei became the principal at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis. In 1975, she went to the College of Notre Dame of Maryland where she helped found the communications department and later headed the weekend college.

She earned her doctorate in intercultural communications at the University of Minnesota and represented her order in Rome where she met Pope John Paul II.

Sister Dei spent most of the last decade running a seminary program in Nigeria where she had become a mother figure for 300 young seminarians, teaching them in communication skills and more. She had just been appointed the district leader for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Africa and planned to return once her ankle healed, Salgado said.

"Her belief in God and her dedication to her vocation gave her the strength to do all of these things," she said.

Funeral services and burial were held Monday in Baltimore.

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