Sister Mary Motz, SNDdeN

Sister Mary Motz, SNDdeN

Sister Mary Motz SNDdeN
April 8, 1932 – January 17, 2022

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Mary Louise Motz was the second child and oldest daughter of a large and loving Catholic farming family that included her parents, eight brothers and four sisters.  Mary was full of stories of working the farm and selling the produce from a road side stand.  She also shared stories of her father teaching her concern for those in need and her mother teaching her the joy of a life authentically and simply lived. Mary took these lessons to heart and when her pastor wrote her letter of recommendation to religious life, he described her as “unselfish” and hoped she would “always keep her cheerful disposition.” He also said, “She has a million dollar smile.” Mary’s cheerfulness and smile added light and peace to classrooms and community for over 70 years. 

Mary met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur while attending school at St. Michael Parish School in Sharonville, Ohio. She later admitted her early motivation “to become a saint”.  Her growing love of God and desire to help others grew into a call to religious life. She saw in the Sisters of Notre Dame a balanced life that drew her like a magnet. As Mary put it, “Notre Dame offered me the contemplative as well as the active life, giving me the means of both Mary and Martha to win God’s blessing in my life.” She asked to go to the Candidacy of the Sisters of Notre Dame when she entered high school. The Sisters said “yes,” and Mary went to Columbus, Ohio where she lived with the Sisters and other young women exploring a call to life in Notre Dame while completing her education at St. Joseph Academy. Her experience confirmed her call, and Mary entered the community in 1950. She was given the name Sister Margaret Michelle as a novice, and only returned to “Mary” in 1969.

Sister Mary’s special talent was bringing out the best in children: intellectually, emotionally, socially and morally. This led her to a life of educating others.  Sister Mary’s first 10 years in ministry were spent teaching 1st Grade in traditional parish school classrooms in Cincinnati and Detroit.  The year 1962 would become a pivotal one for her. She attended a ten week Montessori training course in California. Mary later said the experience “opened the door” to what would be her work for the rest of her active ministry: Montessori trainer.  She continued her own training and, in 1963, was assigned as the Directoress and Administrator of the Montessori Department at the Summit Country Day School. Mary wholeheartedly embraced the Montessori philosophy of education throughout all grades. She believed “… educators need to teach students to handle freedoms and responsibilities today.  The tools needed are a healthy self-image and the awareness of the dignity of each person.”  

1963 was also the year Mary was asked to join the staff for the summer programs of the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center. Little did she know she was beginning 47 years with Midwest Montessori. Besides helping with training programs, Mary helped launch the first Master’s Montessori Program at Xavier University in Cincinnati, developed Montessori programs for Elementary I and II, initiated new Montessori programs in Illinois and Ohio, and served on the American Montessori Society Board.  All the while she continued to expand her own Montessori certification until she was certified through grade 12.

In 1980 Mary began 15 years of ministry at Sands Montessori School, a K through 6 alternate program school in inner city Cincinnati that served a racially diverse study body. During that time she also served as the Montessori Elementary Coordinator 6-12 for Midwest Montessori. In 1989 she was asked to become the Program Director of Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Program 6-12. In 1995 Mary began working full-time with Midwest Montessori. Based in Chicago, she trained Montessori teachers throughout the Midwest and also did some work in other parts of the United States. Mary had a deep sense of her work with Midwest Montessori as part of God putting her in the right place at the right time to best contribute to her community’s mission to respond to the poor in the most abandoned places.  In 2009, as she prepared to retire, Mary wrote, “The sojourn has been such a tremendous journey working with so many beginning teachers, principals, children and their parents. I am so grateful to have had this treasured opportunity to work and serve with my treasured Midwest Montessori colleagues. Little did I foresee that Dr. Fleege’s invitation to join his staff in 1963 as the program’s academic coordinator would be such a tremendous growth experience and rich blessing in my life.” The American Montessori Society and the American Montessori Institute recognized the rich blessing Mary had been to so many lives when, in 2015, they recognized her as a Distinguished Ohio Montessorian.  

Mary saw life in community as a gift that helped her become more of who God created her to be. She was able to articulate how many of her values had been shaped and deepened through community discussion, study and reflection days, and prayer with community documents. Mary valued the intergenerational relationships that are a part of community life. She credited the mentoring of the “older” Sisters during her first 10 years as the basis of her effectiveness in her work of Montessori education. Mary also looked to her seniors in community as role models for letting go as she began to deal with diminishment. After her “retirement”, she enjoyed serving as a medical driver. Mary loved spending time with individual Sisters of any age, a good card game, working on puzzles, and sharing the storyline of the latest historical novel she was reading. Summer was her favorite season because of the beauty of nature and good weather to be out in it. Mary loved to walk, hike, swim and square dance.  Some of us remember Mary’s joyful energy during an evening of square dancing her father called for us during a celebration at Mount Notre Dame in 1990. Prayerful by nature, Mary loved spending time in the quiet of her room or in chapel. She also valued opportunities to share her faith with her Sisters and with the laity. Mary regularly participated in parish renewal programs and prayer groups. She had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart. In 2016 every Sister was asked how she “made waves for justice” and Mary responded she did by “Keeping utmost in my heart all those most in need in our world. The heart of Jesus is most aware when hope seems furthest away.” 

One of Mary’s favorite things to do was to spend time with her brothers and sisters and new generations of the Motz family. In 2010, as she was preparing to return to Cincinnati she wrote, “It will also be such an added joy to be near my treasured family again.” That treasure was held close to her heart, was always in her prayer and was shared freely with her community. Her family, friends and Sisters celebrate the gift of Mary’s long life as we gather to remember the many ways she made God’s goodness known to us. We take comfort in knowing we remain in Mary’s heart and prayers. We hear Mary’s hope for each of us in Saint Julie’s words: 

“Live in great peace, charity, humility, strong union in the sweet Heart of our good Jesus, where I meet you every day…” (Letter 302, Saint Julie Billiart, Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)


  • Born April 8, 1932 in Milford, Ohio
  • Parents: George Motz (born in Mt. Washington, Ohio) and Edna Banker (born in Camp Dennison, Ohio)
  • Brothers: George, Carl, Adam, John, Bill, Paul, Robert, Franklin
  • Sisters: Helen, Vera, Jane, Barbara
  • Baptized on April 17, 1932 at Guardian Angel Church, Mt. Washington, Ohio
  • Confirmed on May 29, 1942 at St. Patrick Church, Fayetteville, Ohio
  • Entered September 7, 1950 at Mt. Notre Dame
  • First Profession: March 28, 1953
  • Final Profession: August 13, 1958


  • Bachelor of Science in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1963
  • Master of Science in Education from Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1980


  • 1953-1958 St. George Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1958-1963 St. Eugene Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1963-1974 Summit Country Day School Montessori School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1967-2010 Coordinator, Midwest Teacher Training, Evanston, Illinois
  • 1974-1977 St. Peter Parish School, South Beloit, Illinois
  • 1977-1978 Summit Country Day School Montessori School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1978-1979 St. James of the Valley Parish School, Wyoming, Ohio
  • 1979-1980 Student, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1980-1995 Sands Montessori School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1995-2010 Teacher/Elementary Coordinator, Midwest Teacher Training Center, Evanston, Illinois
  • 2010-2014 Community Service, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
  • 2014-2022 Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Died on January 17, 2022 at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
January 19, 2022