Sister M. St. Mel Wright, IHM

Sister M. St. Mel Wright, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Thursday, May 20, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She was born on June 26, 1929, in Baltimore, MD; and given the name Barbara Catherine. She was the daughter of the late Lealon Burgess and Catherine Halloran Querney Wright. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1949, and made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1952, and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1955.

Sister St. Mel served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1952 to 1954; St. Peter Catechetical Center in Wellsboro, PA, from 1954 to 1955; St. Patrick Catechetical Center in Milford, PA, from 1955 to 1957; St. Ambrose Elementary School in Bridgeport, CT, from 1957 to 1965; St. Pius X Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1965 to 1971; Archbishop Neale Elementary School in La Plata, MD, from 1971 to 1978; and St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD, from 1978 to 1979. 

Sister also served as director of candidates for the IHM Congregation from 1979 to 1982; sector coordinator for the IHM Congregation, from 1982 to 1990; core group member at IHM Spiritual Renewal Center in Cresco, PA, from 1990 to 1994; coordinator of the Marian Convent in Scranton, PA, from 1994 to 2005; assistant administrator of the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2005 to 2010; and pastoral care volunteer at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA, from 2010 to 2013. 

From 2013 until the time of her death, Sister St. Mel was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education/English, and a Master of Science degree in special education/elementary education, both from Marywood College.

She is preceded in death by four brothers, Clayton, Lealon, Jack and James; and a sister, Dorothy Stumpf.

She is survived by a sister, Peggy Wright of Bowling Green, KY; nieces and nephews. She is also survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

Interment will be at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, PA. Due to restrictions related to the coronavirus, the funeral mass and graveside service are private.

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.


Combined Vespers Prayer Service:

Sister M. St. Mel Wright, IHM
Funeral EulogyMay 24, 2021 
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

“I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost. . .
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude


This prayer from Thomas Merton reminds me of Mel’s life.  It speaks of the profound faith of a life lived in total trust in God’s unbounded love and care even amidst the mystery of the disease that seemed to steal Mel from us these last years.  Even up to these recent weeks, her kind, gentle spirit often found a way to touch those around her despite her illness.  In truth, throughout her life, Mel’s graciousness and sincerity were gifts valued by family, friends, and all she met.  Hers was a journey of integrity, generous giving and sacred meaning. 

Mel’s faith and openness toward all was nurtured first by her loving parents and six siblings.  No wonder Mel entered religious life – with a family of nine, it was like a mini-novitiate of sorts just growing up!  She probably knew all about rank long before she entered!  It was in the family home, then, where the qualities we came to love in Mel were formed: gracious and gentle, kind, understanding and generous, warm and grateful, humble and faithful.  These same qualities characterized her throughout her sixty-nine years as an IHM.

We celebrate and give thanks for Mel’s life among us, for her unwavering love of God and her great gratitude for all that God and life gave her, the rejoicings as well as the sorrows.  For twenty-seven years, she taught primary students in grades kindergarten through third in schools in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Idaho, and Maryland.   Mel was a master educator.   Her warm, gentle, patient manner with her young students created an encouraging, open, and safe environment for them to learn the required basic skills and also to develop qualities of concern and care for themselves, others, and their world.  They learned about God’s love through their interaction with Mel.  She loved each student unconditionally and they saw and responded to her genuineness.  Those same qualities were the hallmark of her role as the congregation Director of Candidates and later as a congregational Sector Coordinator.  To be honest, both of these roles frightened Mel – she did not feel qualified – yet her trust in God led her to accept the positions, and how fortunate and blessed all of us were that she did!  Donna Korba told me a story about Mel that reflects her humility and trust.  Just after Mel was first appointed as director of candidates, she arrived at St. Rocco’s with Donna, who was already six months into her candidacy, to await the arrival of two new candidates.  In a conversation with Donna, Mel shared that she had been a primary teacher all her life and didn’t know how to be candidate director.  She then said to Donna, “You will have to help me.”  That was Mel:  her willingness to share her vulnerability and her openness to learn had a profound impact on the candidates and all of us.

After completing eight years as a Sector, Mel became a core member of the IHM Spiritual Renewal Center in Cresco, where her many qualities as spiritual director brought many to seek her counsel.  She next served as coordinator at the Marian Convent, where her care and concern for the sisters won their enduring love.  Karen Rainey, who played the organ at masses there, wrote that Mel was always so appreciative of whatever she did to help with the liturgy and that had a lasting effect on her.  Mel later became assistant administrator at the IHM Center and then a pastoral care visitor here at OLP before coming here as a prayer minister eight years ago. 

Those who lived and ministered with Mel shared stories about her many kindnesses, her humility, her dedication, her willingness to listen, her grace, her life committed to prayer and relationship with all, especially her God.  She understood deeply that love of God and love of others is what truly matters, and her life taught all of us that profound truth.  We have been blessed to know her.

We bring thoughts of Mel’s goodness to our prayer today as we also remember very specially her parents, Catherine and Lealon, and her brothers, Clayton, Lealon, Jack, and James, and her sister, Dorothy, who now welcome her home to the eternal celebration of God’s love.  Mel often remarked that she couldn’t wait to see her mother again – she died when Mel was a junior in high school so just imagine their reunion last week!

We pray for those people whose lives were touched by Mel’s kindness and compassion, especially her sister, Peggy, her  nieces and nephews and their families, Mary Ellen and all her IHM sisters and associates,  the caregivers here at OLP, and all who lived and ministered with her. 

Mel entered fully into the lives of those she met.  Always she sought to be the gentle presence of love, of God, to others.  She often urged the candidates to be the best women religious they could be because though we cannot bear children to carry on our names, our good works and humble lives will be what we leave the world.  The following excerpt from a prayer I found captures Mel’s awareness of her own life, and all of our lives, on this earth as a journey toward our true home with our loving Creator:  God, Never let me forget I am a pilgrim on the way home.  Teach me to seek you, meet you, and know you as I travel the way.

There is no doubt that Mel, our pilgrim, faithful companion, and true “saint” if ever there is one, has indeed shown us the way toward our heavenly home where she awaits us and now enjoys the fullness of peace and joy she so richly deserves.

And so I now ask Mary Ellen to place Mel’s bible on her casket, for indeed, she heard the Word of God, she staked her life upon it, and received life to the full . . . the Word now beckons Mel home.