Maureen O'Shea, 67, educator, pastoral minister in Columbia

March 12, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Maureen O'Shea, an educator and a pastoral minister who was the director of religious education for more than a decade at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Columbia, died of cancer Monday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 67.

"Maureen loved working with children, adults and staff of the parish. She often took communion to the sick. She also had a special ministry for the widowed, divorced and separated of her parish," said a sister, Michele Bloom of Frederick.

She was born Maureen McGuirk in Warren, Ohio, and was reared in Niles, Ohio. As a child, she developed an interest in music, and when in high school performed at proms and sang with dance bands.

After graduating from high school in 1954, she attended Youngstown University in Ohio for two years. But it was her deep spirituality, family members said, that caused her to seek a career in which she could serve those in need.

In the late 1950s, she earned a bachelor's degree in pastoral counseling from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. She later studied theology at Santa Clara University in California and earned a master's in catechistic studies in 1985.

During the 1980s, she worked as a pastoral counselor in San Jose, Calif., and as director of religious education at a church in Milpitas, Calif. Later that decade, she entered the Sisters of the Visitation Monastery in Federal Way, Wash., where she spent two years studying painting and learning to play the organ.

She moved in 1990 to Walkersville, Md., where she worked briefly for the Way Station in Frederick, a facility for the mentally disabled, and in the offices of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

From 1992 until her retirement last year because of failing health, Ms. O'Shea had held various positions at St. John the Evangelist, where she began her career as parish administrator.

"She was tremendously devoted to her job and passionate about religious education for children. And she was always upbeat and an inspiration to the adults around her," said Kathie M. Armstrong, director of religious education at St. John.

"And during her final journey, we saw an incredible strength that allowed her to face whatever was coming. And because she faced it all with such grace, it made it easier to be with her."

Ms. O'Shea's was good at connecting with people, including the doctors who treated her throughout her illness.

"You have given me a gift more precious than any award, pay raise or distinction -- you have shown and taught me more about dignity and courage, and peace than anyone I believe I've ever met," one of her Johns Hopkins Hospital physicians wrote in a letter.

"She was a very loving, compassionate, open-minded, empathetic and gracious person. And she has helped many lives here one way or the other," said Kim Rodriguez, parish secretary. "Volunteers were always happy to work with her. They just loved her."

Ms. O'Shea particularly enjoyed working with children in the religious education program, which is for kindergarten through sixth grade. "Anybody who has been in the program realizes that they have received a good, solid religious foundation," Mrs. Rodriguez said.

In working with parish members who had been or were working through a divorce, Ms. O'Shea willingly talked about her experiences as a divorced woman, family members said.

Gifted with a generous wit, Ms. O'Shea shared her passion for puns with family and friends. She was also an avid reader who often read a book a day. She looked forward to attending family reunions and spending time with her 35 nephews and nieces.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. John the Evangelist Church, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road, Columbia.

In addition to her sister, Ms. O'Shea is survived by two brothers, Brian McGuirk and Raymond McGuirk, both of Niles; and five other sisters, JoAnn Frost of Marblehead, Mass., Eileen DeLucia of Niles, Marilyn Pela of Metairie, La., Barbara Mitegra of Forest Hill, and Karen Stephenson of Columbia.

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