Catholic Schools Week

Long career fueled by music, love of teaching

Sister Maureen Mueller, SSND, will retire after 20 years as the religion and music teacher at Notre Dame School of Dallas at the end of this school year. (JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic)

By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic

Sister Maureen Mueller’s classroom at the Notre Dame School of Dallas reflects the loves of her life—the Lord; the Catholic faith; children; teaching, and music.

Pictures of Jesus and statues of the Blessed Mother watch over students’ handiwork and Sister Maureen’s beloved piano and guitar in the cheerful room.

In her 20 years at the school, which serves students with developmental delays and disabilities, Sister Maureen said that she has praised God every day for the privilege of serving Him as a music and religion teacher.

At 80, she is preparing to retire at the end of the school year, but not to stop teaching, learning and making music.

“I’ll miss the routine of getting up in the morning and saying, ‘Lord, I can walk—thank you, Lord,’ ” said Sister Maureen, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 60 years. “I want all my classes to be fun. What I will miss, of course, is the children. I love teaching them to love God and to love music, and bringing them to believe in themselves.”

When she was growing up in St. Louis, her vocation took root at age 10 as she found herself inspired by her teachers — the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Her first teaching position was as a sixth-grade teacher in Marrero, La., in 1956.

“I had not yet taken the courses on pedagogy and discipline, and I said, ‘I don’t know how to teach,’” she said. “The Provincial Leader said, ‘You’ll learn.’ I did. I had a lot of fun.”

Notre Dame School principal Theresa Francis said that Sister Maureen embodies the school motto of “No Limits, Just Possibilities.”

The school was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1963.

“Sister Maureen is such a great example of doing God’s work on earth,” Francis said. “We are owned by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, so having someone here with their mission and charism is wonderful.”

Sister Jean-Marie Smith, SSND, who assists staff and students wherever she is needed at the Notre Dame School, said that she greatly will miss Sister Maureen when she leaves the school.

“We have a connection here, and it will be strange not to have her here,” said Sister Jean-Marie, whose education career began with the teaching of hearing-impaired students. “Music is such a part of the educational process here. Everything we do is with the mind of broadening people’s horizons.”

Sister Maureen, the school’s 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year, said that her retirement in Chatawa, Miss., will mark a new career chapter.

She expects to focus on liturgy, tutoring and playing guitar.

“I also have a trumpet that I want to work on,” she said with a smile.

She also smiled in recalling that her childhood friends predicted that she would not make it as a nun.

“My classmates said I liked boys too much—and I did!” she said. “A friend of mine seemed more likely to become a nun. But the tables were turned. She got married and had 11 children, and I’ve had many more.”

charasta@cathdal.org