Sister Janet

A member of the Sisters of Mercy, she was principal of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart School for almost two decades

December 03, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Sister Janet Seubott, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy who had been principal for nearly two decades of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Parochial School in Mount Washington, died of cancer Sunday at The Villa, her order's retirement home in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County. She was 70.

Janet Margaret Seubott was born in Baltimore and raised in West Baltimore, where she had been a member of St. Bernardine Roman Catholic Church.

After graduating from Mount St. Agnes High School in 1956, she entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy and professed her vows in 1959.

She took the religious name of Dolores Marie but returned in the 1970s to her baptismal name.

In 1961, she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the old Mount St. Agnes College, and received her master's degree as a reading specialist from Loyola College in 1971.

Sister Janet also earned a certificate in advanced studies in education management from Loyola College in 1977.

"Having served 40 years in elementary schools, Sister Janet's ministerial life can be summed up in one word: educator," said Sister Patricia Smith, vice president of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and longtime friend, who entered the order with Sister Janet the same day.

Sister Janet taught at the Cathedral School in Savannah, Ga., and at St. Joseph's Parochial School in Mobile, Ala.

After returning to Maryland, Sister Janet held teaching assignments at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mount Washington Country School, St. Peter the Apostle and Little Flower in Woodstock.

She was principal of St. Francis de Sales Parochial School in Salisbury for seven years before being appointed principal of Shrine of the Sacred Heart in 1977.

"Sister Janet's heart remained at Sacred Heart, where she had her longest tenure as principal. She began the kindergarten and prekindergarten programs there," Sister Patricia said.

After stepping down as principal in 1994, she remained an active communicant of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, also in Mount Washington, where she became the parish's first female Eucharistic minister in 1978.

She was interim principal at St. Joseph Parochial School in Cockeysville, where she helped the school gain its accreditation.

Debbie Swiss, who teaches art and physical education at St. Joseph, was hired as a physical education instructor at Sacred Heart in 1993 by Sister Janet.

"She was truly a Sister of Mercy and was always thinking of others," said Mrs. Swiss, who is also a Mercy Associate, a layperson who shares in the work of the religious order.

"She made every day a delight. She always had a kind word, and the children were the most important thing to her," Mrs. Swiss said. "She loved discussing things over a cup of tea. I just loved her, and she was a true Sister of Mercy to the end."

Other assignments in the late 1990s included serving as assistant principal at St. Philip Neri Parochial School in Linthicum and principal of St. Francis of Assisi Parochial School in Baltimore.

In 2001, Sister Janet began working at Mercy Medical Center as an employee tutor.

"She worked with employees who needed help with reading and math, preparing for their GEDs, or assisting those for whom English was not a first language," Sister Patricia said.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2003, Sister Janet began a new ministry. For the past five years, she comforted cancer patients while undergoing more than 80 chemotherapy treatments.

"When she fell ill herself and became a chemotherapy patient, she made a lot of acquaintances with patients who were also facing chemotherapy," said Sister Helen Amos, former president and chief executive officer of Mercy Medical Center.

"She'd go and visit them and got close to their families, and when they passed away, she'd reach out to them," Sister Helen said.

She described Sister Janet as a "very private person who was very disciplined, organized and orderly. You could always count on her."

Sister Helen added: "I think out of respect for other people, she tried to see things from their point of view and reach out to them."

Sister Janet was also known for contributing her logistical skills to annual meetings of her order that were held at the Holiday Inn in Timonium

"Her gifts of organization and attention to detail were invaluable and appreciated by all," Sister Patricia said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 12:30 p.m. today at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Smith Avenue and Greely Road.

Surviving are a brother, Alvin Seubott of Baltimore; a sister, Sister Mary Alvin Seubott of Savannah, Ga.; and several nieces and nephews.

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