Sister Maureen Sauer, SNDdeN

Sister Maureen Sauer, SNDdeN

Sister Maureen Sauer, SNDdeN
September 15, 1934 – June 19, 2020

Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise. Sing to him a new song; skillfully play with joyful chant. For the Lord’s word is upright; all his works are trustworthy. (Psalm 33:2-4)

Mary Therese Sauer was born and spent her early years in her mother’s hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. When Mary Therese was nine, her brother Thomas passed away. Throughout her life, Mary Therese would be grateful for the close relationships she had had with cousins on both sides of her family. She and her parents moved to Chicago a couple of years after Thomas’ death. Mary Therese finished grade school and enrolled at Notre Dame High School in Chicago where she met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Drawn by their simplicity of spirit, Mary Therese felt called to join the community. As she put it: “I had contacts with several different orders but I felt that God gave me a vocation to Notre Dame.” Her parents supported her decision, and Mary Therese entered at Mt. Notre Dame in Reading, Ohio on September 8, 1952. As a novice, she was given the name Sister Maureen, and she would be known as Maureen for the rest of her life. 

With the other novices, Sister Maureen prepared to teach. She spent seven years teaching 5th, 6th, and 7thgraders. By then, her superiors had recognized her special gift for music. Maureen was given a year to focus on finishing her B.A. in Music and earn a certification to teach piano. Maureen was assigned to Notre Dame High School, Chicago where she taught Religion, Music, and Singing. During that time, the Sisters were surveyed about their interests. Maureen responded that her heart was in teaching Music and Singing. Following that year, her ministry settings would change, but her focus would remain music. While in Chicago, Maureen helped develop an inner-city choir. She later said: “I sang too hard, any time, any place.” As a result, Maureen came close to ruining her voice and would not sing publically for the next 10 years. 

From Chicago, Maureen was sent to Columbus to take over the Music Department at St. Joseph Academy. She was there for much of the renewal of religious life and the Church. Following the Second Vatican Council, Maureen was tremendously interested in all the liturgical possibilities opened up by the renewal of the Liturgy. She loved the Latin chant but believed the switch to English was very important. Maureen began to think about how she could be a part of providing qualitative liturgical experiences in parishes. The renewal of religious life also opened up possibilities for her outside of teaching in the Notre Dame schools. One possibility happened by accident when she went with members of her community to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Records were playing and the Sisters started singing along. Maureen’s voice soared above the rest of the singers. The restaurant owner immediately hired Maureen to sing Neapolitan arias on Saturday nights. Maureen’s superiors were very supportive. She donated her wages to the Sisters’ education fund and gave her tips to the poor. Maureen knew that mastering the organ and improving her skills in choir work were necessary to prepare her to minister in parishes, so she returned to Chicago for a year of study. Later, she would continue honing her skills through the study of liturgy and graduate workshops in choral conducting and choir techniques. 

In 1975, Maureen began 22 years of service as Minister of Music at St. Catherine of Sienna-St. Lucy Parish in Oak Park. Both the neighborhood and parish were racially diverse in an era when integration was a huge issue. Maureen was part of a group of four Sisters of Notre Dame who formed a community in the neighborhood called “Julie House” for the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Two of the Sisters were African American and two were Caucasian. Together, they lived as witness to the diversity of the Body of Christ and the Notre Dame value of unity in diversity. Maureen continued to minister at St. Catherine-St. Lucy until she was called to serve on the Ohio Province Leadership Team. When this term of service was finished, Maureen returned to ministry in Chicago. In 2000, she began 16 years of service in music ministry at St. Luke Parish in River Forest. Rehearsing multiple choirs, planning liturgies, and playing for liturgies of all types, filled her days and evenings. Maureen loved every minute of it.

In addition to her work at both parishes, she taught voice to undergraduates at near-by universities and gave private lessons regardless of her students’ ability to pay. Maureen also served as a vocal specialist for the Chicago Archdiocesan Cantor Training Program and did extensive work as a presenter for GIA Publications and the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. She felt especially called to teaching because it was so connected to the mission of her community. As Maureen said, “Anytime you’re developing God’s gifts to people, you’re doing the work of Notre Dame. Music expresses beauty, which is God’s goodness.” She went on to say: “I find it very refreshing to work with the young people …. Studying voice in a formal setting opens them up to something larger than themselves. To help a young man or woman discover a gift, it’s a glorious time for us both. If I’m able to get a student to then give part of that gift back to the Church through a role like a cantor, I am especially happy. My students have such a capacity for goodness.”

Just as she helped her students develop their gifts, Maureen helped her Sisters develop their gifts of voice and music. She lifted the goodness she experienced in her Sisters, as well as, her students. Maureen shared her gifts with her community as she directed the Province Choir, played for countless prayer services, vow and jubilee celebrations, and other community liturgical celebrations. She helped train Sister musicians and cantors. Maureen took an interest in Sisters as individuals. For her, “How are you?” was not a polite inquiry. Maureen really wanted to know her Sisters. Her friendship was a gift to many, and her sense of humor and love of fun added to any gathering of which she was a part. Maureen asked that part of her patrimony be used to fund Sisters working directly with the poor. She served on the Board of Notre Dame High School, Chicago, as a member of the Ohio Province Assembly, and regularly participated in regional and national Notre Dame activities. 

Maureen also sang with the Lyric Opera Chorus and other groups in Chicago, simply for the joy of singing. She enjoyed music and singing so much she once said she couldn’t imagine ever retiring or doing anything else. “I am blessed to know the goodness of God in my ministry to God’s people through music. Music is a way for me to pray. Can there be a greater gift?” The illness eventually made it necessary for Maureen to move to Mount Notre Dame Health Center where she continued to make music for as long as she was able. As her Sisters, beloved cousins, friends and former co-workers celebrate her life, we thank God for Maureen’s many years of faithfully making known God’s goodness. Aware that when we sing we pray twice, we lift our hearts and voices in song, and join Maureen in singing:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, Most High, to proclaim your love at daybreak, your faithfulness in the night, with the ten-stringed harp, with melody upon the lyre. For you make me jubilant, Lord, by your deeds; at the works of your hands, I shout for joy! (Psalm 92:2-5)


  • Born September 15, 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa
  • Parents: Charles Sauer (born in Chicago, Illinois) and Margaret Connerton (born in Des Moines, Iowa)
  • Siblings: Thomas Sauer
  • Baptized on September 30, 1934 at Saint Anthony Church, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Confirmed on May 19, 1946 at Saint Anthony Church, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Entered September 8, 1952 at Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
  • First Profession: March 12, 1955
  • Final Profession: August 13, 1960


  • St. Genevieve Parish School, Chicago, Illinois, 1948
  • Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois, 1952
  • Bachelor of Music in Voice from the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1963
  • Master of Music in Choral from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1971
  • Associate Degree in Pastoral Liturgy from St. Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana 1993

Assignments Included:

  • 1955-1960 St. Paul Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1960-1962 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, Reading, Ohio
  • 1962-1963 Student, College Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1963-1967 Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1967-1974 St. Joseph Academy, Columbus, Ohio
  • 1974-1975 Student, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
  • 1976-1981 Teacher of Private Music, Voice and Opera, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1977-1981 Chorus Member, Lyric Opera Chorus, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1975-1997 Minister of Music, St. Catherine Sienna-St. Lucy Parish, Oak Park, Illinois 
  • 1984-1985 Providence-St. Mel High School, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1986-1995 Cantor Training and Voice Coach, Office of Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1988-1994 Chorus Member, William Ferris Chorale, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1994-2000 Ohio Province Leadership Team, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1997-2000 Workshop Presenter/Private Students, Chicago, Illinois
  • 2000-2010 Teacher of Voice, Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois
  • 2000-2008 Music Ministry, St. Luke Parish, River Forest, Illinois
  • 2008-2017: Assistant Music Director at St. Luke Parish & private lessons, River Forest, Illinois
  • 2017-2020: Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Died at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio June 19, 2020

Prepared by Sr. Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN
June 21, 2020