Sister Martina Marie Wagner dies at age 74

She had taught in area parochial schools for more than 40 years

September 07, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Sister Martina Marie Wagner, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who was the former head of the religion department at Seton Keough High School, where she was a beloved and respected figure, died Sept. 1 of cancer at St. Agnes Hospital.

She was 74.

Born Juanita Wagner in the Bronx, N.Y., she moved with her family in 1941 to Baltimore, where she attended St. Ann School and graduated in 1954 from Western High School.

She worked briefly as a clerk with the Maryland Casualty Insurance Co. before entering the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1954.

She professed her vows in 1956, at which time she took the religious name of Sister Martina Marie, and her final profession in 1962.

Sister Martina Marie earned a bachelor's degree in 1964 from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She enrolled at Villanova University, where she earned a master's degree in history in 1973 and a master's degree in theology three years later.

She began her career teaching junior high school students at parochial schools in Florida and Georgia before returning to Mount Calvary parochial school in Forestville in the late 1960s.

In 1968, she joined the faculty of St. Benedict parochial school, where she taught elementary students for a year. She later began teaching secondary students at the Institute of Notre Dame, where she worked from 1972 to 1974.

From 1974 to 1977, she was director of religious education and a pastoral associate at New All Saints Roman Catholic Church.

She held similar positions at the Roman Catholic Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie from 1977 to 1986, and at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Joppa from 1986 to 1991.

Sister Martina Marie was director of religious education and a pastoral associate at the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension in Halethorpe from 1991 to 1993.

In 1997, Sister Martina Marie became a teacher at Seton Keough High School, where she eventually was appointed chairwoman of the school's religion department.

Angela Calamari is principal of the Southwest Baltimore high school and a longtime friend of Sister Martina Marie.

"She was so full of life and a real feisty lady. Her motto was, 'Yo, Ladies,' and every blackboard in school today has that written across the top in honor of her life," said Ms. Calamari.

"The kids loved her and she had an enormous heart. She also dedicated a good part of her life to Seton Keough," Ms. Calamari said. "She also was a woman of great faith, and she learned her values from her mother, who was a homemaker."

Sister Martina Marie was an advocate not only for the students but for the school's faculty and staff.

"If she felt a faculty or staff member was overworked, she'd go to the school authorities and make sure they were given a day off. She was always there for the students, teachers and staff," Ms. Calamari said.

She described Sister Martina Marie as a "very spiritual individual" who "acted on her faith and always did, after reflection and prayer, what was right whether it was popular or not."

Sister Martina Marie retired in June.

"Her death is a great loss for us," Ms. Calamari said.

Sister Anna Marie Zeitner, also a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and a retired educator, became friends with Sister Martina Marie several years ago.

"She called and asked if we needed any summer help and I said yes, and she came to Connecticut and we hit it off like two peas in a pod," said Sister Anna Marie, who is a resident of Villa Notre Dame in Wilton, Conn. "We became so close that she'd come here for Christmas."

In addition to work, Sister Anna Marie enjoyed touring Connecticut with her new friend.

"She did odd jobs that needed to be done while people were away on vacation. And then when we had time off, we traveled around the state and visited various museums," Sister Anna Marie said.

"She was a very joyful person who loved life and people. She could connect with people and got along well with them," she said.

Sister Martina Marie, who lived in the convent at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, enjoyed reading and "dressing up," said Ms. Calamari.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the chapel at Villa Assumpta, 6401 N. Charles St., in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County.

Surviving are a sister, Joan McQuay of Bel Air; and several nieces and nephews.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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