I MMA C U L ATA MA G A Z I N E * S UMM E R 2 0 1 4
If you’re going to disagree with Sister
Maureen Lawrence McDermott, IHM, ’78,
you’d better be prepared to back up your
position. As a speech and debate team member
in high school, she understood the significance
and power of words at a young age—which is
what brought her to Immaculata as an English
major with a minor in Secondary Education.
“I only wanted to attend Immaculata,” she
said. “It’s the only college I applied to because
all my role models in education were IHM
Sisters.” And it was because of great teachers,
such as Sister Marian William Hoben, IHM,
Ph.D.; Sister Marie Hubert Kealy, IHM, Ph.D.; and Jim Mooney, that
she committed to her major.
As a little girl growing up in South Philadelphia, Sister Maureen
attended St. Gabriel Parish School. By the time she was ready to
enter high school, her parents moved to Delaware County and she
attended Archbishop Prendergast High School. After graduating
from Immaculata in 1978, she decided the following year to enter the
Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Congregation. During the summer
of 1987, she made her final vows and graduated from West Chester
University with a Master of Arts in English. In 2006, she earned
her Doctor of Philosophy in Catholic Educational Leadership from
Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.
Not only did she always want to attend Immaculata, but she always
wanted to be a teacher—and it had to be at the high school level. She
began her teaching career at various local Catholic schools. It was
during this time that Sister Maureen recaptured her love for speech
and debate while teaching it at Bishop McDevitt High School and
Villa Maria Academy during the 1990s. For over 20 years she held
leadership positions within the Philadelphia Catholic Forensic League
(PCFL) and the National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL), serving as
president of the Philadelphia Chapter from 1990-1992 and the National
Chapter from 1996-1998.
In 2001, Sister Maureen was named principal at Bishop Shanahan
High School in Downingtown, PA. With over 1,100 students at the
school, Sister recognizes that learning goes beyond the confines of the
school day. “The student-athletes are always learning, the students
running the TV station [at Shanahan] are always learning. Every
opportunity is a learning one—to apply what you’ve learned.”
The ability to articulate clearly has served her well. Among the
many duties she juggles as principal at Shanahan are curriculum
development, staff development, teacher mentoring, and strategic
planning, and she noted how interconnected all of these duties are. For
example, as part of curriculum development, it was decided that new
electives, such as pre-engineering and Mandarin, should be added and,
as part of strategic planning, the staff determined how to make it work.
In addition, Sister Maureen feels it is her responsibility to facilitate all of
these duties in a positive Catholic way.
With her expertise in Catholic education, Sister was recently invited
to serve on the Immaculata University Board of Trustees for a three-year
term as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee and Enrollment
“The ability to articulate with confidence is life-changing,” Sister
Maureen stated. She noted that there has not been a U.S. president who
has not been involved in speech and debate in some manner before taking
the coveted role.
Her life as an IHM Sister is happy and full. Her day begins and ends
with God. “The purpose of my life is to respond to what God calls me to
do and to keep an open heart,” she stated. Living with and serving with
her IHM Sisters provides great inspiration. The holiness and humility of
the Sisters is a constant source of inspiration for Sister Maureen.
Keeping in touch with other amazing women, all of her classmates
from Immaculata, is not something Sister does as often as she would
like. However, a few years ago, she was invited to attend
movie premiere at the Franklin Institute with her dear friend and
classmate Maria Alonso ’78, who played on the Mighty Mac teams from
1975-1978. Sister also enjoys spending time at the beach—the IHM
retreat house at Stone Harbor is one of her favorite spots and gives her
the opportunity to reconnect with her IHM friends.
But her thoughts always travel back to her students. She notices
a difference in the students of today. “They are much more globally
aware, and they don’t see technology as a device, but as an extension of
themselves,” she noted. Sister Maureen observed that her students use
social media for efficiency, and she doesn’t think that technology has
diminished their ability to communicate at all.
Communicating with confidence, no matter the medium, is a priority
for Sister Maureen.
Sister Maureen Lawrence McDermott, IHM, ’78, Ph.D.