Faith, Service, and Ms. Maher’s Journey to La Salle


Lillian Paugh

Ms. Sarah Maher has been a part of the Lasallian community for four years.

Hannah Whiteside, Staff Reporter

Religious studies teacher and Director of Service Ms. Sarah Maher began her faith journey in Twin Cities, Minnesota, where she grew up. 

During her senior year, while attending Mahtomedi High School, Ms. Maher was in a program outside of school called Young Life, which was similar to a youth group.

“I did a once a week conversation with kids in my high school about God and about community,” Ms. Maher said. “And that’s how it got me started into thinking more about doing something like that long term.”

Then, in college, this experience made her want to take extra theology courses and eventually pushed her to what she’s doing now.  

After graduating high school, Ms. Maher attended a Lasallian Christian Brothers university called Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, where she majored in youth and pastoral ministry and music. 

Once she graduated from Saint Mary’s University, “I was kind of up for an adventure,” Ms. Maher explained. She joined the Lasallian Volunteer Program, which was a one to two year commitment where she lived with other volunteers as well as Christian Brothers in their community and worked alongside them in Lasallian schools or ministries. 

The Lasallian Volunteers program is where Ms. Maher and her husband met. He was living with the Christians Brothers, and working at a school in Albany, New York. 

Following her acceptance into the program, Ms. Maher was placed in Brooklyn, New York, to work at a bigger high school called Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School. “So I went from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, to Brooklyn, New York, which is the opposite of everything I’d ever known,” Ms. Maher said. 

Switching from a predominantly wealthy suburban area in Minnesota, to working at a low income school was a huge shift for Ms. Maher. “So anything I had ever understood about poverty or race, I was very wrong about because I had never had that kind of lived experience,” she said. 

At the high school, Ms. Maher did campus ministry work but was unsure if that was what she wanted to continue to do. While she was apprehensive about working with teenagers and was set on teaching younger kids, she ultimately chose to teach high schoolers, “I loved it, and I’ve never done anything since,” she said.  

When she finished working at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School after two years, Ms. Maher attended Villanova University for another two years, where she got her master’s degree in theology, and worked in the Villanova Campus Ministry office. 

In 2012, after finishing college, Ms. Maher and her husband moved to Oregon when they were both hired at De La Salle North Catholic High School. 

After working at De La Salle North for seven years, Ms. Maher decided to come to La Salle in 2019.

“I was looking for a fresher start,” Ms. Maher said.

She already knew some former and current La Salle staff when she came into the position and liked that she would be focused on service and justice, “whereas at De La Salle, I was doing all faith, service, and community things alongside one other coworker,” she said. “So the opportunity to take a program and run with it and be a little bit more stable to expand upon and focus on it was a really good move for me.” 

Now continuing her fifth year at La Salle, Ms. Maher teaches junior and senior religion courses and runs all of the service and immersion programs. “It’s been great, I really enjoy my coworkers, I love the students, [and] I love the challenges I get every day of teaching morality,” Ms. Maher said. 

Having the opportunity to work in Brooklyn and at De La Salle North, Ms. Maher now has a greater understanding that she hopes to bring to her classroom. “[I] was at a school of people who were underserved, and so I soaked it all in as much as I possibly could, and then bringing it here, hopefully can offer what it means to be an ally.” 

She applies her experiences to both the religion courses she teaches. In the junior Catholic Social Teaching course, “we talk about current events all day and how to look at it through a lens of the Gospels,” Ms. Maher said, whereas the senior Lasallian Ministry course focuses on “what have you learned thus far, and how are you going to apply it going beyond La Salle?”

Her senior students also have the opportunity to mentor students at Lot Whitcomb Elementary School, where they go once a week. “In addition to that, we talk about generational poverty and then their vocation,” Ms. Maher explained. “It’s a really awesome course, and I wish everyone could take it.” 

Outside of school, Ms. Maher and her husband, who now works at Cleveland High School as a special education teacher, have two children who are five and six years old, as well as a Weimaraner puppy named Louie.

Ms. Maher and her family are “really big outdoorsy folks,” she said. They go on various trips on the weekend to places like The Columbia Gorge and the coast. “My kids love to bike and be outside, so we’re outside as much as we can,” Ms. Maher said. “We’re all really itching for spring and summer right now.” 

Ms. Maher wants her kids to be aware of social justice issues and their place in them.“We don’t really sugarcoat anything,” she said. “They’re pretty well aware of what’s happening in the world.”

She is able to incorporate some of the social justice work she does into prayer around the dinner table with her family, explaining that they often talk about homelessness, since they are exposed to it while living in the Portland area.

“I just do what the Catholic Church has been saying to do forever,” Ms. Maher said. “And so teaching the roots of racism and sexism, and houselessness and how all these things are unjust and systemic and how to fix it at the source, I really enjoy that part of it.”