Sister M. Celeste Parry, IHM

Sister M. Celeste Parry, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Monday, January 17, 2022, at Regional Hospital in Scranton.

She was born on November 12, 1927, in Pittston, PA, and given the name Joanna. She was the daughter of the late Henry and Rose Ann Donahue Parry. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1948, and made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1951, and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1954.  

Sister Celeste served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Rose Elementary School in Carbondale, PA, from 1951 to 1954; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Forest Hills, NY, from 1954 to 1956; St. Bernardine Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1956 to 1959; Nativity of Our Lord Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1959 to 1960; St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD, from 1960 to 1966; St. Mary Elementary School in Patton, PA, in 1966; St. Matthew Elementary School in Wilmington, DE, from 1966 to 1976; Our Lady of Peace Elementary School in Clarks Green, PA, from 1976 to 1977; St. Peter of Alcantara Elementary School in Port Washington, NY, from 1977 to 1984; and St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1984 to 2009.

Sister Celeste was a prayer minister at St. Ephrem Convent in Brooklyn, NY, from 2009 to 2014. From 2014 until the time of her death, Sister Celeste served in support services and as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

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

She is preceded in death by a brother, Joseph; and two sisters, Sister M. Jeannine, IHM, and Rose Ann McGrath.  

She is survived by nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews; and 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.

Prayer of Remembrance/Funeral Mass:

Sister M. Celeste Parry, IHM
Funeral Eulogy, Thursday, January 20, 2022
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it
when it comes and to add to other people’s store of it.”
Charles Dickens 

These words of Charles Dickens remind me of how Celeste lived.  She was one of those rare people who truly did increase the store of happiness in the lives of each person she met and in our world for that matter.  Her presence radiated a quiet peace and joy that permeated any conversation she joined – and I must say that Celeste joined many conversations every day!  I love Redempta’s description:  Celeste was like “the mayor of Our Lady of Peace.”  Every day after dinner she would quietly set off on a round of visits throughout the building, stopping first to see her dear friend, Jean Toolan, and then off to check on a sister who was ill, or one who had suffered a family loss, or just to catch up with a sister or two or six that she hadn’t spent time with in a while.  The word was that if you needed to know anything about a sister or a staff member, just ask Celeste.  She enjoyed the bits of information she picked up from her visits, but the real joy for Celeste was in the visit, the shared presence, the shared conversations that brought kindness and caring to others. 

Celeste walked among us with gentleness of spirit and graciousness of heart and truly touched countless hearts and lives.  Her ministry experiences as a primary teacher in schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and Delaware spanned almost sixty-four years of dedicated service.  She absolutely cherished her interaction with the students, mostly first graders, and their families.  Her smile and eyes that twinkled with delight brightened many a hallway and warmed children’s hearts.  Her presence, her gentleness, compassion, and understanding were life-long lessons that she modeled for her students, and all of us, every single day.  As mission moderator at her beloved St. Ephrem’s in Brooklyn, she taught the students about the needs of people less fortunate than them and then would sponsor a bake sale in the school and have the students donate the proceeds to those in need.  In her file, there is a letter she wrote explaining that her first graders voted to send $100 from one of their bake sales to the retired IHM sisters in Scranton – a copy of the check was there too.  Valuable lessons learned, I’m sure, that stayed with those students and were passed on to future generations.

I once heard a person describe her life as “a happy one, simple, nothing spectacular.”  Those who knew Celeste saw in her that simplicity, but lived in an extraordinary way.  She has been a loving sister to us. She supported us in our hopes and aspirations. Hers has been an elegant simplicity, an inspiring celebration of quiet trust, love, and support.  She loved and was deeply faithful to God, and that relationship was tended to constantly by her.  Her gentle, gracious spirit reflected that faith and trust in God.  She loved her family beyond measure – I don’t know if you know this, Patty, but you and other family members were the topic of conversation many nights at Household 3-B’s supper table.  She loved her congregation and always expressed her deep gratitude for the many graces she received as a member.  Even here at OLP, whenever there was a gathering, whether it was for Bingo or an auction, or whatever, Celeste was present and engaged.  I loved that about her – she chose to be involved, not just sit on the sidelines.  That spirit is what we celebrate today.  She was so interested in others and what was happening in their lives, and shared that interest and love, that we never left her without a smile on our face and a feeling of being richly blessed by her humble goodness.  How wonderful that she got to enjoy celebrations of her years and goodness this past fall when her 70th jubilee and 94th birthday were observed with much joy among the sisters here.

Celeste’s goodness and deep faith were rooted in her close family ties.  We remember her parents, Rose Ann and Henry, her sisters, Sister Jeannine and Rose Ann, and her brother, Joseph, with whom she is rejoicing today in heaven.  I have no doubt that Celeste is already making the rounds, visiting family, friends, co-workers, and even students, catching up on the latest news and increasing the heavenly store of happiness by her gentle, joyful presence.  We pray for all those who will miss her caring and joy-filled presence, especially Patty, Charlie, Jean, Tony, Casey, Julie, and Sarah, her other nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and all their families.  Our prayers are also with her many IHM friends, the sisters, staff, and administrators here at Our Lady of Peace, especially those with whom she lived in Household 3-B, and all who knew and were blessed by her life. 

Celeste’s entire life was one of seeking the Loving God in all people and in all creation.  So, with prayerful remembrance this morning, we honor the memory of our Celeste, who has stepped over the threshold of this life to be embraced fully in the mystery of God.  May we live our lives as faithfully as Celeste did and come one day to be embraced in this same eternal love and mystery.

I now ask Patty to place the scriptures on Celeste’s casket, for she heard the Word of God; indeed, she staked her life upon it, and received life to the full ... the Word now beckons Celeste home.