Sister Cathy Cesnik was a beloved teacher at a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland. On Nov. 7, 1969, Sister Cathy went missing. It wasn’t until almost 25 years later that stories of a potential cover-up of her death started to emerge.
The seven episode Netflix documentary series, “The Keepers” follows two of Sister Cathy’s students. Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub have dedicated their retirement to searching for more information on Sister Cathy’s disappearance and death.
Many different students and friends were interviewed for this series. Everyone spoke highly of Sister Cathy. Now, 47 years later, this case is getting the attention it deserves. Gerald Koob, a Jesuit priest and close friend to Sister Cathy, described her as a determined and truthful individual.
This series had many shocking reveals—almost all were heartbreaking.
The conspiracy surrounding Sister Cathy’s death wasn’t revealed until infamous student “Jane Doe” came forward with an explanation for her death and disappearance.
Student Jean Wehner anonymously came forward in the ’90s exposing Fr. Joseph Maskell, Fr. Neil Magnus and other members of the community, as well as strangers, for raping her while a student at Keough (now Seton Keough) High School. Wehner admitted in her interview for “The Keepers” that she confided in Sister Cathy at some point.
Sister Cathy had more knowledge than Wehner, who thought she was the only one being abused. Years later, other women came forward with information of their own abuse from Maskell and Magnus, as well as other men.
At one point in the documentary, Wehner tells viewers that Sister Cathy promised her that she would take care of the situation and that it would stop. Sadly, the next day, Sister Cathy went missing, which ultimately led to her death.
As the series unfolds, more men and women are involved in this circle of abuse. Only girls weren’t the only ones who experienced abuse. Maskell was reassigned to his position at Keough due to a scandal he was involved in at this previous post at St. Clements.
Charles Franz attended St. Clements and was an altar boy for a mass Fr. Maskell attended, where Franz and Maskell became acquainted. Much like the girls at Keough, Franz would be called to see Fr. Maskell in his office and would be up there for hours. During those hours, Fr. Maskell was abusing his students.
The origins of abuse started similarly for the parties who came forward. In Wehner’s and Franz’s cases, Maskell said he was trying to cleanse them of their sins and impurity. Wehner was molested as a young child by her uncle and Franz was caught sipping wine after mass. Those reasons justified Maskell in what he was doing. He took advantage of those viewed as “troubled.”
Franz doesn’t enter the series until the very last episode, but this ending is fitting, even though it takes viewers back to the beginning.
In 1967, the Archdiocese was informed of Maskell abusing Franz. Franz’s mother found out and took this information to the police, as well as the Catholic Church. Had this matter been dealt with properly and timely, it could be said that Sister Cathy wouldn’t have suffered the fate she did. Instead of removing Maskell and stripping him of his titles, the church thought it better to simply move him to a different school—Keough.
Many more details and many more people, innocent and guilty, are involved in this story of Sister Cathy. According to Hoskins and Schaub, new details clues are being discovered every day.
“The Keepers” is available to stream on Netflix.