Sister Rosemary Donohue, SNDdeN

Sister Rosemary Donohue, SNDdeN

Sister Rosemary Donohue, SNDdeN 
(formerly Sister John Margaret)

May 1, 1942 – September 21, 2020

In her  handwritten vow formula, Rosemary committed herself to “a life of consecrated chastity, evangelical poverty, and responsible obedience”  in “grateful response” to God’s love for her, and in the firm belief that the Spirit would give her the courage to live her vows “faithfully – in daily service to the People of God.”  Her daily service, moreover,  would be grounded in the charism and mission of Notre Dame; witness this statement on the occasion of her golden jubilee:   “I believe that daily I am faced with the opportunity to continue Julie’s work of bringing God’s goodness to all whom I encounter.”

The record of Rosemary’s ministries reveals a steady progression from teaching, to school administration, to leadership training and diocesan administration.   “I enjoyed the challenges and appreciated the importance of Catholic Education in the life of the Church and in the lives of those I was honored to serve,” she wrote, and “I felt privileged to continue Julie’s work of education of teachers as well as students.  It reinforced my belief that there is a major need for well-trained and prepared teachers in our country and the world today.”

Among the papers in her file is a copy of a 6 x 8-inch sign that serves as  a succinct, forthright expression of Rosemary’s dedication  to  “teaching our students not only the ways of the world but the ways of Christ”   

Be it known to all who enter here that


Is the Reason for this school.

He is the unseen but ever-present teacher in its classes.  He is the model

of its faculty and the inspiration of the


“We’re preparing students for a life that we don’t exactly know what it’s going to be like” she pointed out, “but they have to have within themselves the virtues that will allow them to be true to themselves, to their beliefs and their values, to not be afraid to challenge at times.”

Bishop Joseph Gerry’s dual mandate when he appointed her Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Portland (ME) in 1993  had been “to respect the schools’ individuality while, at the same time, drawing them into a cohesive, interactive working unit that would function as “part of the diocese.”  By her retirement in 2014, Rosemary could rightfully declare Maine Catholic Schools a “force for the Church” and “an evangelizing presence” in the larger community.  She took pride in the greater recognition and support Portland’s Catholic-school system had earned in Maine:

The state [now] recognizes Catholic schools as a unit, almost as a district unto themselves.  So that [has] allowed us to become very involved and create a whole support system for our personnel, to assist them in the process of becoming certified and continuing to be certified.

I have every confidence that our school administrators and teachers will continue to partner with parents, parishioners and community members to provide students with opportunities to become faith-filled Catholics, creative and critical thinkers, life-long learners and confident contributors to Church and society.”  (Quoted in a  diocesan press release announcing her resignation, April 30, 2014)

Well-wishing notes and comments from colleagues at the time of Rosemary’s departure from Portland express appreciation for her leadership style as well as the positive systemic changes she accomplished.  “Loyalty, commitment, tenacity in the good sense,” one colleague commented; “she was tenacious in the things she believed in.”  Another co-worker sent her this more personal note of gratitude: 

I’m thankful that I had an opportunity to spend a couple of years working with you.  You put up with my foolishness with patience and good humor, and for that I am grateful.  I learned a lot from you—selflessness, dedication, and devotion to God’s will.  I don’t think many people got to see the little things that you’ve done over the years—the notes you send, the calls you make, the prayers you lift—when people need them.

With her return to the Baltimore area, Rosemary turned her attention to cultivating a happy mix of professional, religious-community, and family relationships. Professionally, she relished her return to teacher-training in the Education Department of Notre Dame of Maryland University and welcomed a series of opportunities to serve on the boards of Sisters Academy, Trinity School, and Maryvale Preparatory School.   She also enjoyed having time for broader participation in SND  community affairs.   Because she lived so near Villa Julie, she became a regular commuter for Sunday Mass/dinner, occasional days of reflection, circle-of- conversation meetings,  feast-day celebrations, and even annual retreats.   

She also delighted in sharing life with her family—always an important priority for her.  Her sister, Peg, was a staunch friend and support throughout Rosemary’s final illness.  Stories of grandnieces and grandnephews remained a favorite topic of conversation to the very end.   Shortly before leaving Portland, Rosemary  had written this  telling message to a colleague:

. . . My Dad was buried right before Thanksgiving.  That year when our family said grace, my brother raised his wine glass and toasted Dad.  Needless to say, we all went to tears, BUT this allowed us together to have a moment of remembrance.  We were all thinking about him anyway.  To this day, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we toast Mom, Dad, Jack, Jennie, Nick, and others.  It has become our family tradition, and it has also become a time when we have introduced the younger and newer members to their ancestors.  (May 2014)

Rosemary knew as she celebrated her diamond jubilee, that journey’s end was near.  Her vow formula reveals how she had begun her Notre Dame life in “grateful response” to God’s love for her.  Now, as she passed the 60-year mile marker, she was still full of gratitude:

I thank the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for their continuing support and love.  And I also thank my wonderful family, especially my sister, Peg, nieces, nephews, and my numerous friends and colleagues for their continuing daily love and support.

In her final days, the Spirit she had trusted for the courage to live her vows faithfully in daily service of others spoke to her heart in a new key, giving her the courage to surrender everything — “hopes . . . dreams . . . plans . . . schemes” --  in return for God’s love and God’s grace.   Her final service to all of us was her witness:  “These alone, O God, are enough for me.”   


  • Born Rosemary Theresa Donohue, May 1, 1942, in Darby, PA
  • Parents: John F. Donohue Jr. (b. Philadelphia, PA) and Geraldine M. Lane (b. Silver Lake, PA)
  • Siblings: John F. Donohue III, Margaret (Peggy) Donohue Zecca
  • Entered Notre Dame: August 14, 1960
  • First Profession: May 4, 1963
  • Perpetual Vows: August 9, 1968


  • St. Bernadette Parish Grade School, Drexel Hill, PA, 1956
  • Archbishop Prendergast High School, Drexel, Hill, PA, 1960
  • B.S. Trinity College (Education) - 1965
  • M.ED. - University of Virginia (Administration) – 1974
  • Catholic School Leadership Program, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, Graduate Assistant (1988-1992)
  • Ph.D. - Boston College (Administration/Supervision) - 1992


  • Elementary/Middle-School Teaching and Administration
  • Holy Trinity, Glen Burnie, MD, Grades 4-6 (1961-1963)
  • St. Martin, T Street, Washington, DC, Grades 2-5 (1963-1965)
  • SS. Joachim & Anne, Queens Village, NY, Grades 5-6 (1965-1970); Assistant to Principal (’67-70)
  • Trinity Lower School, Ilchester, MD, Grades 4-8; Assistant to Principal (1970-1972)
  • St. Albert the Great, Philadelphia, PA, Principal (1972-1988)
  • Catholic School Leadership Training & Diocesan School Supervision
  • Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA,  Catholic School Leadership Program (Director, 1988;  Graduate Assistant, ’88-82)
  • Department of Catholic Schools, Miami, FL, Assistant Superintendent (1992-1993)
  • Catholic Schools, Portland, ME, Superintendent (1993-2014)

Teacher Training

  • Notre Dame of Maryland University’s School of Education, Baltimore, MD:
    (Supervisor of Graduate Interns (2016-2020)

Professional Services

  • Numerous education boards/committees at local, state, regional and national levels
  • Supervising Principal for Student Teachers from five Philadelphia college/universities
  • Member, Advisory board, Education Department, Holy Family College, Philadelphia
  • Testing Supervisor, Center for the Study of Supervision, Evaluation and Educational Policy, Boston College, MA
  • Chair, New England Chief Administrators of Catholic Education
  • Member, Executive Committee for the National Catholic Educational Association
  • Member, No Child Left Behind  Committee of Practitioners,  Maine Department of Education (2006-2008)
  • 20-Year Member, Phi Delta Kappa


Prepared by Sr. Mary Ann Cook, with the assistance of Sr. Kim Dalgarn, Ohio Province Archivist