Sister M. Emerita Gasper, IHM

Sister M. Emerita Gasper, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Monday, August 9, 2010 at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

She was born on March 27, 1903 in Mount Etna, PA, and given the name Susan. She was the daughter of the late George and Katherine Bednar Gasper. She entered the IHM Congregation on December 26, 1921, made temporary profession of her vows on August 15, 1924, and final profession of her vows on December 8, 1930.

Sister Emerita served the IHM Congregation for nearly sixty years as a cook and was well known for her expert pie making. While teaching culinary skills, Sister Emerita mentored hundreds of young IHM Sisters to an understanding of the importance of hospitality. She was deeply prayerful and often shared her extensive knowledge of the lives of the Saints.

Sister Emerita served at the following: St. Ann’s Convent in Scranton, PA, from 1924 to 1926; St. Joseph Hospital in Carbondale, PA, from 1926 to 1929; IHM Motherhouse at Marywood in Scranton, PA, from 1929 to 1958; IHM Academy in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1958 to 1960; and Our Lady of Grace Retreat Center in Manhasset, NY, from 1960 to 1982.

From 1982 until the time of her death, Sister Emerita was a prayer minister at the Marian Convent and Our Lady of Peace Residence, both in Scranton, PA. During that time she often baked special pastries and pies for the Sisters.

She was preceded in death by two brothers, John and George, and seven sisters, Anna Koczan, Helen G. Robinson, Mary Heigh, Katherine Heigh, Elizabeth Mumich, Margaret Kovac, and Ethel Rykiel.

She is survived by two brothers, Joseph of Martinsburg, WV, and Thomas of Martinsburg, WV, a sister, Gertrude Frye of Lynchburg, VA, nieces and nephews.

The funeral will be Monday, August 16, at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Peace Residence, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Interment will be at St. Catherine's Cemetery, Moscow. Friends may call at Our Lady of Peace Residence on Sunday, August 15, between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:30 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to support the retired IHM Sisters c/o the IHM Sisters Retirement Fund, IHM Center, 2300 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18509.

Sister Emerita's Pies (Flash Video)

Eulogy by Father Tylenda, SJ

Reprinted from "In Memoriam" section of Journey, Fall 2010 issue 
Sister Emerita and a baker’s dozen… is there a connection? Of course there is! Sister Emerita started life as part of what would become a baker’s dozen—thirteen children born of George and Katherine Gasper. Within the context of her family she learned and developed many of the “fortifying and enriching” skills that blessed us over the years. As a cook, she did not limit herself to providing food for those she served. Her presence could be a feast for one who engaged her. Any conversation could result in experiencing Sister in one of the numerous roles she played in the lives of young sisters, sisters in community, and those who labored with her in the kitchens in which she selflessly ministered. Sister Emerita was a philosopher, a “chief cook and bottle washer, a manager, a teacher, an advisor, and a wisdom figure par excellence, all within the confines of her kitchen, convents, and later on in her rooms at the Marian Convent and Our Lady of Peace Residence.
There were some predictable components of conversations with Sister Emerita. You could count on hearing about some facet of St. Gertrude’s life and mystical spirituality, perhaps a nugget or two from Thomas Aquinas or some deeply spiritual thought springing up from the issues du jour. She was keenly aware of what was happening in the lives of sisters at Our Lady of Peace Residence, and would often express concern for one of the sisters who had just returned from the hospital or for one who had been experiencing some difficulty. Sister Emerita knew who they were and asked for them by name.

Each visit with Sister Emerita was an opportunity to learn something from a woman who lived life much like the mystics, with a moment by moment awareness of God’s loving presence. Her words were a source of practical information (“If the squirrels get in, pray to the Principalities”), an oasis of inspiration (“If you have God, you have everything”), and a clarification of what was really important (When Sister’s grandniece told her that she was working on her Ph.D., Sister reminded her that she should be working on praying for a happy death!). The elegance of Sister Emerita’s rootedness in God, humility and wisdom are an ongoing reminder of the clarity with which God speaks when using the presence of one whose love is great.

by Kathryn Clauss, IHM