Serving from 1964-78 as an instructor and chair of the Department of History/Social Studies and as director of Residence Life, Sister Marita Maschmann, OSF, ’53, who died in January at age 83, assumed responsibility for Stritch’s Clare Hall in the 1960s at a time when young women craved more freedom and often challenged rules they considered unreasonable. She referred to it as “the best of times, and the worst of times.”
“She was pretty much no-nonsense,” said alumna Terry (Romano) Estness, ’75, who lived across the hall from Sister Marita for a semester in 1971. “But she understood that, as young women, we had to do some pretty crazy, stupid things to figure out the true path we needed to go down. She allowed us latitude with some direction.”
Aside from her roles at Stritch, Sister Marita held several teaching positions, served as a high school principal, worked in religious education for the Chicago Archdiocese, and assumed several roles within the congregation, including vocation director, archivist, fund development writer, and director. As director from 1995-99, Sister Marita helped initiate the merger that eventually welcomed the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore into the Order of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 2001. In addition, her leadership team fostered renewed connections with two other Franciscan congregations as the three groups celebrated the 150th anniversary of their common founding in 1849. This celebration led to a shared mission called Common Venture which developed an ongoing international relationship with the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis in Cameroon that began in 1998.
Today’s director of the congregation Sister Florence Deacon, OSF, Ph.D., who formerly served as chair of Stritch’s History Department as Sister Marita once did, got some of her earliest history lessons from Sister Marita – first as her student at St. Mary’s Academy, then as a student at Stritch.
“She was extremely visionary and always looking beyond,” said Sister Florence, remembering Sister Marita’s global focus when teaching history. “She expanded her students’ minds and saw the world far beyond Stritch, and was really good with encouraging us to go to lectures to broaden our thinking. Sister Marita was a strong mentor for me even after I graduated.”
On a personal level, Estness remembers Sister Marita’s sense of humor and “engaging laugh,” especially when the students hosted a surprise roast of her before she left Stritch in 1978.
“She was just a delightful, warm, and loving person,” Sister Florence said.
Photos courtesy of University Archives