November 7, 1937 – January 21, 2023
“Let us always do what the good God shows us moment by moment. Always, without wanting anything but what he seems to indicate by his adorable providence.”
(Letter 189, St. Julie Billiart, Foundress, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)
Marian Katherine Schaechtel grew up in the Baltimore, Maryland area. She was the beloved only child of parents who were the children of immigrants. Her father’s family was from Russia and her mother’s family was from Romania. Both sides of her family had been strongly influenced by the German language and culture and their Catholic faith. It was a heritage lovingly passed on to Marian, including a Catholic education. The Sisters who taught Marian in grade school made a deep impression. She was sure she was called to be a Sister at a very early age, and that call did not waver.
Her first meeting with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was in the spring of 1951 when she went to Ilchester, Maryland to take the scholarship and entrance test for Trinity Preparatory School. Marian was deeply impressed by the welcome of not just the principal, but the entire faculty. She was accepted at Trinity Preparatory and loved her four years there. During her sophomore year, her homeroom teacher asked about her future plans. Marian told her she was going to enter the community that taught her in grade school. Sister asked her if she would ever consider joining the Sisters of Notre Dame. Marian later wrote, “This question sent me into a tailspin and changed the entire course of my life.” She discovered she loved both communities and could not make a choice. Her wise homeroom teacher suggested she talk to a Dominican priest who helped her come to inner peace and a decision. Then she told her parents. They were not happy. Marian’s decision did not waver. By the spring of 1955, her parents decided to support her. Marian’s gratitude for her parents’ support stayed with her throughout her life.
August 14, 1955 Marian and thirty-five other young women entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at Ilchester. As a novice, she received the name Sister Marian James, and besides adjusting to religious life, she prepared for the ministry of teaching. Marian later said, “I never looked back.”
Marian began forty-one years of classroom teaching in 1958 at St. Bernadette Parish in Drexel Hill, PA. She was given a class of 60 first graders and later recalled, “Because I was my parents’ only child, I had no idea what to do for children.” Classrooms were self-contained and Marian needed to learn a lot very quickly. Another Sister also had first grade and she immediately began mentoring Marian. The two became good friends as well as Sisters and coworkers. Three years later Marian was missioned to St. Jerome, Hyattsville, MD. Again, she started with a large class of first graders. As her confidence grew, she was assigned third-grade and then junior-high classes. Even as Marian experienced more Sisters mentoring her through new subject matter, she herself began to mentor newer faculty and community members. Language Arts and Religion became her areas of expertise, and she also gave piano lessons to interested students. Holy Rosary, Staten Island, New York, was Marian’s next mission. She served there for four years teaching fourth, seventh and eighth grades.
September 1970 found Marian returning to her beloved Ilchester. The high school had closed, but the lower school continued as Trinity School. Marian served as a faculty member at Trinity School from 1970 until the summer of 1999. She taught Religion and Language Arts to fifth through eighth graders throughout those years. She also served as a guidance counselor during the latter part of her time at Trinity School. When Marian celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, she reflected on her experiences teaching at St. Eleanor, St. Jerome, Holy Rosary, and Trinity, “I have treasured my time in these four special missions - each so different yet rich beyond belief in the experiences, challenges, joys, and the opportunities for growth that they have provided.”
In 1999 Marian was called to serve in leadership for the Maryland Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and she continued serving in that role until June of 2010. The ministry included collaborating with other Sisters of Notre Dame throughout the United States and the world as well as other religious congregations and the broader Church. Marian described the situation as “… an exciting and challenging time for religious in the United States as we continue to adapt to our diminishing numbers and search for new ways of accomplishing our mission: to make known the goodness of God.” She also said she found change exciting as well as challenging. That attitude was a grace she drew on again and again given the times she lived in. Marian, and the other Sisters who served with her in leadership, oversaw the continuing transition of leadership of SNDdeN ministries to the laity, the closing of other ministries, the opening of a new collaborative ministry in Baltimore, and the ongoing care of aging members. She served terms of service on the Boards of Trustees for the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Villanova, PA, Trinity School, Ellicott City, MD, Maryvale, Brooklandville, MD, Sisters Academy of Baltimore, and Notre Dame Education Center, Washington, D.C. It was also during this time that the Sisters of the Maryland Province joined with the Ohio Province. Marian continued to serve through that transition. She later said, “The grace of God has never let me down.”
By the late summer of 2010, Marian had ‘retired’ to Villa Julie in Stevenson, MD. There she began her final ministry of prayer and presence which she continued at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center in Reading, Ohio when she was missioned there in 2015.
Marian brought her love for Notre Dame, dry sense of humor, quiet presence, a genuine interest in each person she met, and deep spirit of prayer both to her ministries and to her Sisters in community. Marian’s quiet reflectiveness, strength of will, patience, and tenacity shaped all aspects of her life. She was a very private person who cared deeply for people she met and had a great appreciation for the giftedness of each Sister, coworker, student and friend. Distance was never a barrier to Marian’s ability to maintain friendships because of the effort she put into keeping contact with them, and the depth of love others had for her that motivated them to go out of their way to see her. Marion summed up her life by saying, “The blessings of my life have been legion: my parents, the many Sisters with whom I have lived in community, the friendships I have acquired along the way, the children I have taught, their parents, and the opportunities and the experiences that the Congregation has afforded me…. God has been good to me and always there. I cherish so many wonderful memories, lots of great stories, and no two days that were ever alike! The good God is indeed so very good!”
As her Sisters, family, and friends gather to celebrate Marian’s life, we thank God for her life well-lived. We echo her words: the good God has indeed been so very good to bless each of us, and our world, with Marian’s presence. We thank God for all the ways she made God’s goodness known to each of us. We rejoice with Marian as she is embraced in God’s infinite love and peace.
- Born November 7, 1937 in Baltimore, MD
- Parents: Jacob John Schaechtel (born: Baltimore, MD) and Margaret Mary Winkler (born: Baltimore, MD)
- Baptized on November 28, 1937 at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Baltimore, MD
- Entered: August 14, 1955 at Ilchester, MD
- Professed First Vows: January 26, 1958
- Professed Final Vows: August 4, 1963
- Trinity Preparatory School, Ilchester, MD, 1955
- B.S. in Education, Trinity College, Washington, D.C., 1964
- M.S. in Elementary Education, Towson State University, Towson, MD, 1973
- 1958-1961: Teacher, St. Bernadette, Philadelphia, PA
- 1961-1966: Teacher Grades, St. Jerome, Hyattsville, MD
- 1966-1970: Teacher Grades, Holy Rosary, Staten Island, NY
- 9/1/1970-6/30/1999: Teacher, Trinity School, Ilchester, MD
- 7/1/1999-10/31/2009: Province Moderator, Maryland Province, Stevenson, MD
- 11/1/2009-6/19/2010: Transition Team, Ohio Province, Stevenson, MD
- 8/16/2010-6/28/2015: Retired, Villa Julie, Stevenson, MD
- 6/29/2015-present: Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died January 21, 2023 at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Sister Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN
January 23, 2023