The Catholic University of America

March 15, 2010

Sister Rose McDermott to Receive a Published Tribute


Sister Rose McDermott, S.S.J

“Teacher appreciation makes the world of education go around,” educator Helen Peters once wrote. One of the most remarkable forms of appreciation a professor or university administrator can receive is a Festschrift, i.e., a scholarly book published in his or her honor and containing academic essays written by the honoree’s colleagues.

At a celebration of her 75th birthday last September, Sister Rose McDermott, S.S.J., associate professor of canon law and 2007–2009 interim dean of CUA’s School of Canon Law, learned that her colleagues were planning to publish a Festschrift in her honor.

A newly published copy of that book will be handed to her by Rev. Robert J. Kaslyn, S.J., current dean of the canon law school, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 18, on the occasion of the School of Canon Law’s annual James H. Provost Lecture (which this year will be presented by Most Rev. Roland Minnerath, Archbishop of Dijon, France, on the subject of the relationship of church and state).

The Festschrift consists of 13 scholarly articles concerning canon law and seven letters expressing appreciation for Sister Rose’s excellent qualities of scholarship, teaching, leadership, service, faith and humor.

The book, which is being published by Sheridan Press, is titled Essays in Honor of Sister Rose McDermott, S.S.J. The book’s subtitle — “Service for Union With God and With One Another” — quotes the mission statement of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sister Rose’s religious order.

“I had no idea that the faculty worked so diligently to produce the Festschrift as a birthday gift for me,” says Sister Rose. “As book review editor for the journal The Jurist, I know that Festschrifts honor scholars of true academic excellence. I am humbled by this honor, as I see myself as a simple Sister of St. Joseph, called to serve others in the spirit that St. Joseph served Jesus and Mary.”

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches,” philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, and it is a sentiment expressed over and over in the letters of appreciation in the book’s first 21 pages, which were written by current and former colleagues, students, subordinates and bosses (including Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, the bishop of Camden, N.J.; and Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University). The message of the letters is not just that Sister Rose was and is a fine administrator, teacher, employee and boss, but that she is a delightful person.

“Sister Rose is indeed a legend in the school [of canon law] and university due to her assistance to one and all,” writes Father Kaslyn in his letter of appreciation. “The legend stems in large part from her character: Rose is self-effacing and quick to praise, encourage and support fellow faculty, students, fellow sisters, but she does not care much for being praised or even thanked.”

Another contributor of a letter, Theresa Selvaggi, worked as a secretary for Sister Rose in the early 1990s when the latter was delegate for religious in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Selvaggi writes, “My family would remark how they never saw someone leave in the morning to go to work in such a pleasant way as I did when I worked for Sister Rose. I left my home smiling, knowing I would be entering into another day working with someone who can only be described [as] … kind, compassionate, dedicated, wise, honest, humble, sincere, charitable and selfless.”

Sister Rose may be 75 years old, but she’s not planning to retire right away. “Definitely not,” says Father Kaslyn. “Don’t make me scared.”

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The new publication in tribute to Sister Rose will be the first volume in a new series of scholarly books on the ecclesiastical law of the Catholic Church, to be published by the Sheridan Press for the School of Canon Law. The name of the new book series is Institutiones Iuris Ecclesiae, which translates from the Latin as “Of the Law of the Church.”

MEDIA: For assistance, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in Catholic University’s Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.