Ministry Highlight

 

Our new series of ministry highlights will focus on the prayer ministers who reside at OLP Residence:


Sister Anysia Donohue, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Lucky?

When I interviewed Sister Anysia, she kept repeating (emphatically!) “I’ve been so lucky!” So, I’ve spent time thinking about the term “luck.”

Lillian Donohue and her four older siblings are first generation Americans. Her parents (Catherine and Timothy) were Irish immigrants. Her father came to America on the last voyage of the Lusitania. After her mother arrived in Pittsburgh, she went to work for a wealthy American family and sent much of her salary home to her family.

After completing eighth grade, Lillian had hoped to attend the Josephite Sisters’ Seminary, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t a space available. So, Lillian joined her sister at St. Mary of the Mount High School where she met the IHMs (perhaps the IHMs were lucky?). Lillian didn’t join some of her
classmates on a trip to Scranton, so when Mother Marcella made a trip to Pittsburgh for a follow-up meeting, Lillian didn’t join them. However, she ran into Sister Elphege (lucky?) who insisted she join the group. At the end of the meeting, Mother Marcella approached Lillian and told her she was certain she would be seeing Lillian back in Scranton!

Lillian Donohue and friends from Pittsburgh entered the IHM Congregation in 1950. Having been given the name “Anysia,” Lillian completed her novitiate and went to live/teach at St. Paul’s as a primary teacher. It was here that Anysia believes she “lucked out.” Not just one, but all of the sisters in the convent became her mentors – assuring that she would be a successful teacher as she also continued to complete her degree in Elementary
Education at Marywood.

Anysia spent ten years as an elementary teacher in the U.S. Then, she accepted an assignment to be one of the four sisters to open the IHM mission in Peru (Joel Marie, Ramona and Michael Marie). Anysia didn’t know any Spanish so she depended on a student in her second grade to serve as her translator! Five years later, Anysia began what would end up being a 42 year ministry back in her home town of Pittsburgh. Though some of these years also included family ministry, it was apparent that Anysia stayed in Pittsburgh because she loved it there – “They’re good people!” Being there for so long she got to teach several generations of the same families. Anysia only returned to Scranton because the school closed.

Her time at the IHM Center included teaching at the EEI and working at St. Joseph’s Baby Pantry.

Health issues brought Anysia to OLP in 2019 (just in time for the pandemic’s quarantine). Anysia’s health needs required her to leave the building regularly for treatment. She successfully navigated those trips and escaped a Covid infection and has seen a great improvement in her condition.

Because of her health issues, Anysia has definitely needed staff assistance. I was truly impressed with how deep is her gratitude for the help they have given her. Anysia’s nightly ritual is to review/count her blessings for the day and to pray for the needs of the nursing staff.

I’ve come to question Anysia’s belief that she’s led a “lucky” life. Luck just happens to you – but, given free will – you choose to cooperate with grace. Often, what happens to you is what you are open to and “blessings” continue because you articulate your deep gratitude for what you have already received. If there’s one word that describes Anysia, it’s “grateful” not “lucky.” Before now, Anysia and I had never spoken. Now, her sense of gratitude has infected me – because that’s how I feel about getting to spend time getting to know her.

pittsburgh skyline (002)Pittsburgh, PA skyline


Sister Mary Pio Ferrario, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Mother Beata and Mr. Peo Ferrario, Foyer of the Novitiate, May 30, 1962
Mother Beata and
Mr. Ferrario

going to novitiate
1959 Novices processing to new novitiate building

3 ferrario girls Mary, Pio, Pia
L-R: Sisters: Mary, Pio, and Pia

We saw service and so, we served.

Louise Ferrario experienced the concept of “service” shortly after her birth as she and her mother moved to an apartment in North Scranton because her father, Peo, was leaving to serve his country in WWII. Upon his return, the Ferrario family welcomed three more children: Joseph, Mary, and Pia. Each of their lives has also been characterized by service. Joseph, a former Jesuit, is a benefactor of the Jesuits. Mary Ferrario Rinaldi is an active member of UNICO, including staffing the UNICO table at St. Joseph’s Festival. Pio’s youngest sister, Pia, received the IHM Spirit Award in 2017 and currently serves as a Marywood University Trustee.

Louise Ferrario attended Marywood Seminary mainly because, “All of my friends were going there.”

If you entered the congregation after the Motherhouse fire, you may know very little of the Seminary experience. But knowing that the Seminary classrooms, boarders’ dormitories, dining room, and visiting parlors were housed within the Motherhouse building, it can easily be imagined that Seminary students like Louise Ferrario had plenty of opportunities to observe the IHMs and assume that they knew what those first years joining them would be like. For Louise Ferrario that didn’t end up to be true.

The day after entrance in 1959, Mother Kathleen informed the new arrivals that they were now part of a new phase of IHM formation “candidates” and would be moving to Our Lady of Grace in Manhasset until December 8 when they would officially become “postulants” and reside at the Motherhouse.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII expressed concern about the quality of education in Catholic schools. In 1952, Sister Mary Emil Penet, IHM (Monroe) took up that challenge and, as part of a group that predated LCWR, (CMSW) in 1959, Mother Kathleen began initiating the “Sister Formation Conference” with Louise Ferrario’s entrance band. It meant that sisters would not be sent out to teach before completing an academic degree that corresponded in quality to that demanded by the state.

Meanwhile, in the 1950s the Motherhouse accommodated space for new arrivals numbering in the 40s plus 90 novices (plus a high school, administrative offices and college faculty)! So by 1955 Mother Kathleen began to plan to build a novitiate. She created a group, including Pio's father, called “The Fathers and Friends” to assist with fundraising. This group of over 600 represented many geographic areas where IHMs served and continued to raise funds until 1974. Sister Mary Pio was among the first group making vows in the “house her father was helping to build for her.”

Though these profiles normally focus on just the life of the sister profiled, it seems important to include information on the SFC and the Fathers and Friends group because this is a time when the profile of one person intersects with a major part of the history of the congregation.

Pio herself spent most of her ministry teaching math in junior/senior high schools, following in the footsteps of her Seminary math teacher and IHM sponsor, Sister Samuel McKeown. During her last school ministry, Sister Mary Pio served students in a very close and personal way as a high school guidance counselor.

Becoming an IHM shows that Sister Mary Pio has followed her family’s call to service. But in this pandemic time her ministry as a guidance counselor may be the best way to understand her call to service—it is direct, personal and one-to-one.

Coming to OLP during this quarantine/lockdown time, Pio puts her decision in context. She’d been to OLP several times to recover. Her move here was a great relief. She’d been living by herself in an apartment, going to the store, putting out the garbage. Having OLP available is a blessing.

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L-R: John Murray, Foundation president, Sara
Ferrario, Joe Ferrario, Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM,
Foundation board member, Sister Mary Pio Ferrario,
IHM, Rosebud Ferrario, Pia Ferrario, award
recipient, Nick Ferrario, Mary Rinaldi, Sister Ann
Monica Bubser, IHM, Foundation executive director.


Sister Monique Dissen, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM


“It’s not easy, but, work for His smile."

- Sister M. Josephus Bower, IHM

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Monique with her godchildren,
Addison and Bradley

DissenMonique-5Monique and her Mom

Sister Monique Dissen became an OLP resident recently. That’s quite an adjustment from active ministry to a retirement home during a pandemic!

Baptized Lillian Frances, Monique was born in Pittsburgh, the fourth of five children of Robert and Margaret; and she spent years with the IHMs at St. Mary of the Mount. Even though she did have a boyfriend through high school, she felt strongly that she needed to come to Marywood to be certain about her sense that she was called to be an IHM. So, in 1955, she packed her suitcase and made her way to the Sweeney’s to travel to Scranton with her classmate whom we all know as Sister Redempta.

Having entered post Vatican II, this was the first time I considered what the reception experience might have been like for parents to see their daughter come into the chapel as a bride and leave it as a novice!

Monique spent 38 years as a primary teacher and considers the years she spent in the West in Twin Falls, Idaho, as one of her favorite missions. There she met a diversity of people who had a special relationship to the environment. Apparently, in the West, the mountains don’t have trees. They’re  “masculine.” They have boulders with snow caps!

The year 1971 was a year of painful memories. Like many IHMs, Monique experienced the sadness of not being in Scranton after the Motherhouse fire.Also that year, the IHMs made the decision to close all missions in the West. Tragically, a sister that Monique had lived with in Idaho was killed in a car accident. So, even though Monique returned to her hometown, she has a strong connection to her inner spirit and she knew that “she was on E!” She needed a time to heal her soul and she decided that a year of service at St. Joseph’s Center would “fill her tank.”

We all pray for something. Monique prays that “God will increase her capacity.” Without sharing the details of her “Sacred Story,” know that God  answered Monique’s prayer by filling her life with experiences that “stretched her capacity to the full.”

At one point her ministry did bring her back home to Pittsburgh and did give her time to companion her mother through to her death. What I appreciate about Monique is that when her spirit says she’s on empty, she – unlike many of us, pays attention. As the congregation had started to support sabbaticals, Monique asked to have one. She was attracted to spend that time at Blessing Place because its brochure had a “bench, a tree and a pond.”

Not long after this time, Monique accepted an invitation to begin what became a 22 year ministry as a pastoral associate in New Bern, N.C. When she
arrived at St. Paul’s convent, she knew she’d made the right choice – it had a “bench, a tree and a pond!

She insisted that her ministry team be called “Earthen Vessels.” It would seem that her “capacity” had been stretched to a point where if you can imagine the vast array of pain and loss a “pastor” might experience while bringing Eucharist to the sick - even the psych ward – to praying with prisoners or helping to bury the dead – Monique was able to say “I understand” and it was true.

Monique has a “Prayer Bear. It speaks! It’s (her) message to us – “Your Life is a Gift. Prayer is a Thank You!” Yes, Monique, that’s true! "Thank You!”

Monique Dissen-9 My family in 1966: Betty, me, Mom, Bobby, Patsy, Peggy, and Dad          

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50th Jubilee. L-R: Rita Ann Naughton, Margaret Gannon, Marilyn Muro, Redempta Sweeney, St. Francis Lyons, Monique Dissen, sitting Irene  Swanteson, and Marguerite Green


Sister Marie Moore, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Siblings L-R: Marie, Patrick, Ann Smith, Elaine. Not pictured, John.

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Marie in her "Happy Place," teaching in Wilmington, DE,
from 1982 to 1995.


“Happy” is an emotion. Emotions are fleeting. “Living Joyfully for Others” is a Grace. And, it’s a “Choice” Sister Marie Moore, IHM, makes Marie was born in 1941, the middle child of five children. Her parents were born and lived through a pandemic (1918) and the Great Depression.

Marie’s father, Joseph, grew up with IHMs at St. Michael’s School for Boys at Hoban Heights. He aged out at 18 and found a job as a waiter in the Hotel Casey and a home with Kate McGarry (an Irish immigrant who worked in the Casey’s kitchen) and her sister and her husband in South Scranton. Marie’s grandmother died when her mother, Anna, was ten. The oldest, she helped raise her siblings. She worked at the telephone company. Her parents met in the alley that separated both buildings. Joseph Moore spent World War II in the Navy in a ship’s engine room. He returned home with damaged lungs.

Marie had the IHMs at St. Ann’s School in West Scranton. Her vocation was inspired by Sister Marthine’s reading the Lives of the Saints. Marie’s father wasn’t happy about her becoming an IHM. While surprised, Marie did wonder how strict she’d be if responsible for an orphan that would age out into a Depression. But with her father’s poor health, having Marie close to home was important. On her Entrance Day, Marie found her father in a lively discussion with his former Hoban Height’s IHMs!

Marie’s mother was a seamstress and taught Marie how to sew. Many IHMs wore a habit “Made by Marie!” Marie spent thirty years in her “Happy Place” – a middle school classroom.

Her time in Coeur d’Alene, ID was her happiest mission, but it snowed a lot in Idaho. Thus, there were many trips to the roof clearing off snow or turns throughout the night in nightgowns, mopping the water in the basement.

Marie spent a year in Mt. Holly, NJ – a blessing – she met Nancy LaCouture, a parent who turned into a bestfriend — and a curse – she needed gall bladder surgery and her mother died of heart failure. She ended her classroom days at St. Matthew’s in Wilmington. Marie had begun to suffer back pain. She recalled a fall from a cliff in Idaho landing on her back on a boulder. Sadly, during repair surgery, a nerve in the lumbar region was severed. Marie suffers extreme pain and has mobility issues.

No longer able to teach, Marie joined the support staff at the Marian Convent, mainly as a seamstress. Trish Davis, a nursing aide at both OLP and the Marian, recalls Marie’s visits to the third floor solarium sisters. “Here comes fun!” Marie prepares the deceased sisters’ clothing. Tragically, her youngest sister, Elaine, died alone and her body was found days later, decayed beyond a point where an open coffin was possible.

Marie’s surgeon had designed a spinal stimulator and Marie was one of the first to have it implanted. The device scrambles the pain signals that go to the brain to make the pain manageable. Marie wants to walk as long as she can and recently purchased her own sewing machine so she can continue to “serve her customers!”

At home, Marie sat with her father, Joseph, nightly and reviewed her day. Now, she does the same thing with St. Joseph. Then, she says an Act of Contrition (I did my best and I’ll try again tomorrow) and an Act of Love. A good post-election suggestion!

If you remember Marie for anything, know she doesn’t want your sympathy; instead, she says: “Remember the “Happy Times!”

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Sister Marie Moore, third from left top row, with her band.


Sister Marionette Coll, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Sisters Maureen Schrimpe
and Marionette Coll

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Sister Marionette and older sister, Kathleen

I recently discovered I was writing a profile for the Newsletter of the very IHM Sister who created this publication! Could this series ever be complete without including hers?

Sister Marionette was born in Pittsburgh on November 17, 1921 (she’ll be 99 this year!) and baptized Marjorie. She’s the middle child of the nine children of Francis (“FrankX”) and Mary Broderick Coll (pronounced “Call”). Marjorie went to St. Rosalia’s Grade School and High School.

Sister Josephine Brennan, IHM, was not only her sponsor but seemed to “orchestrate” her entrance process in 1939! While Marjorie was wondering if she was worthy, Sister Josephine was buying the train ticket and arranging with her own father to pick Marjorie up at the train station. However, once Marjorie met Sister Anasyia and experienced her kindness and IHM hospitality, she knew she belonged and soon became Sister Marionette.

Marionette spent one year teaching primary and two years in intermediate classrooms. Though English was her favorite subject, it was decided that Marionette should attend Fordham for a math degree. Thus Marionette spent the next eighteen years teaching high school math and science. She has fond memories of her decade at Immaculata High School in NYC. This was also a time when her extracurricular assignments included the newspaper, yearbook, speech and debate.

In 1964 she came to Marywood and was soon on the road with the outside company the college had hired to do fundraising for a capitol campaign. Recognizing her skills in this area, Marionette was appointed director of development and she formalized the college’s fundraising programs. In 1968, Marywood went through a re-structuring and Marionette becoming Marywood’s vice president for development. Her term in office included both the year of the Marywood Motherhouse fire and its aftermath.

In 1978, Marywood’s V.P. for Academic Affairs, Sister Michel Keenan, became IHM Congregation general superior. She invited Sister Marionette to join her. Sister Marionette suggested her skills would be best used in public relations. Thus, the Office of Communications was established and Sister Marionette was appointed its first director. The IHM Newsletter replaced the general superior’s periodic letters to the sisters. Marionette established a committee to create Journey. Returning to her office after a conversation with Sister Michel about the need to formalize fundraising efforts to meet growing retirement needs, Marionette found herself singing the line, "When your hair has turned to Silver.” Soon she sketched out what continues to this day as the Silver Circle Retirement Fund Fundraising Program. At 98, Marionette is still a seller!

At 73, Sister Marionette became an office assistant at St. Agnes School in Baltimore. Happily, she was reunited with her dear friend, Sister Maureen Schrimpe. They’d met in the 70s when Maureen was in charge of the kitchen at the IHM Center. Maureen and Marionette have been best friends for 40+ years. Maureen shared a poem that describes their relationship: “Why we need best friends...because they laugh at the same silly things we do…because they give us honest advice…because they will be there for us - even if they are thousands of miles away...because they celebrate with us when we are at our best, but still love us at our worst.”

At 84, Marionette returned to Scranton to “retire” but ended up living at the IHM Center and spending hours during the week at OLP as a Telespond volunteer!

In 2012, she came to live at OLP—her “true retirement.” She’s written her own obituary and longs for the end of this pandemic so she and Maureen can continue their “vacation adventures.” A life well-lived!

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Sister Marionette's siblings: Lillian,
Eleanor, Bill, Marionette, Ed,
and Patricia

   MarionetteColl-2-sm
   Sister Marionette in Boston while
   on vacation with her friend,
   Sister Maureen.


Sister Marie Lourdes Vanston, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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ML Vanston 2Marie Lourdes Vanston, 1992, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Wilmington, DE

ML Vanston-Elise BierRSMMarie Lourdes with best friend Elise Bier, RSM at Elise’s 80th birthday celebration in 2019


“Empathy and a Sense of Resurrection”

“I was born and raised above a funeral home. I am definitely a funeral director’s Daughter!” Thus began one of the most amazing conversations I’ve had in a very long time!

Sister Marie Lourdes Vanston (born Nan – “Nance”) is from West Scranton, the oldest of four children of Marian and Thomas Vanston (Tom, Marian and Jim). Nance was only six when she “entered the family business” – arranging chairs and moving flowers. In the 1940s, transitioning from being “waked at home” to “the funeral parlor” meant viewing hours went from 7am to 11pm and the director’s family provided three meals a day to the grieving family in their residence upstairs. During those hours, Nance had the opportunity to observe her mother as she consoled families and, because many of the final services were at the funeral home, to listen to her father’s “sermons.” Thus, Marie learned empathy from her mother and “a sense of resurrection”
from her dad. However, having listened to the rest of her story, I would add that Marie also learned what “daily resurrection” means from both her parents – that ability to “rise up, face the day and move on!”

Being the oldest daughter in an Irish family, Nance came to St. Patrick’s School with the subconscious expectation that she would become a nun. Marie does, however, give special credit to her IHM teachers - Sisters Eva, Marionette, Benedicta and Rose Angela – and her sponsor, Sister Celine Duffy.

The Marian Year was 1954. The IHMs prayed that they would have 54 postulants. Nan Vanston was one of them! “Marie Lourdes” did suggest (in writing!) that she might be “the IHM funeral director.”

Marie’s sister, Marian, was also a member of the congregation – Sister Mary David – for 18 years. She went on Home Ministry to care for her mother. During Marie’s time as superintendent in Wilmington, her sister was in a car accident. Marie travelled to Scranton on weekends to care for her. Oh…and…at that time, Marie had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was delaying surgery/chemo so she could do so! Gratefully, the congregation welcomed Marian home and cared for her at the Marian Convent until her death.

In 2001, the unspeakable happened. Marie’s baby brother – Jimmy – living in Chicago – had gone missing. He’d been brutally murdered in an  attempted robbery. Marie wrote to anyone she thought might have influence over the charges. While she wanted justice for her brother, she did not want anyone given the death penalty. Perhaps, more amazingly, was the grace Marie displayed during the trial as she met for prayer each morning with
the families of the accused.

After the trial and a sabbatical, now cancer-free Marie joined the Education Department of St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, L.I. At one point, while driving, Marie had a seizure that resulted in physical injuries that required her to first experience life at OLP as a temporary resident in therapy. It was also a time when she was diagnosed with “post-polio-syndrome” (she’d had polio in the novitiate).

This syndrome dramatically impacts her ministry and living choices. And now while doing data-processing support for Friends of the Poor, she’s become a permanent resident of OLP.

You should know that doing this interview was like going to an Irish wake. We laughed a lot! Because we do not live on the same floor, we had to find a mutually acceptable interview location. Yep! Marie and I talked in “the IHM funeral parlor” and, once again, Marie lives on the second floor!

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Tom, Marian (Sister Mary David), Mother (Marian F. Wagstaff Vanston), Jim, Father (Thomas J. Vanston), Nance (Sister Marie Lourdes) 1959 at Marian’s profession


Sister M. Celesta Sinisi, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Sister Celesta with
Dad and Mom

CelestaSinisi-FormerStudentsFormer students from Asbury Park visit Sister

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Sisters Celesta, Romaine Krug, and Pat Hauser

celesta and maria-smSister Celesta and
Maria Papa


“A Spiritual Awakening”

Life at OLP continues to be mostly in the “Red Zone” (with some “shades of Pink”!) One of the greatest sacrifices is the lack of contact with the outside world—both because of travel restrictions and the limitations on visitors. For so many, technology has offered options that can minimize that loss of human contact. And so, I’ve selected to profile my newest Facebook

friend, Sister Celesta Sinisi! What sealed this deal for me was her recent call for some computer help. When I arrived at her room, I discovered that she was “streaming” the Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart on Facebook and there was some problem with sound!

Sister Celesta, now in her 73rd year of profession, was baptized Sylvia, the fifth of seven siblings. Her parents were Italian immigrants who’d settled in Altoona, PA. Celesta is one of a number of sisters I’ve interviewed who’ve survived or had parents survive the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, World Wars I and II and, if you think of the historical timeline, so many other national and international crisis that, just knowing that fact, reminds us that OLP is a “House of Survivors.” In these times, that should give each of us great hope!

Sylvia met the IHM sisters through Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish’s CCD program and was influenced to consider an IHM vocation as she prepared for her first communion with Sister Ann Helene Coyne.

She entered the IHMs in 1944 and she taught all grades from primary to junior high. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel had a strong influence on her life as it’s also the name of her first and favorite mission in Asbury Park, NJ, where she spent 15 years. After 35 years of teaching, Celesta moved into a ministry that is dear to her heart—religious education of children at St. Rocco’s in Pittston where she served for another 15 years. Then, Sister Celesta moved to the IHM Center and served as a tutor in the E.E.I. Special mention should be made of Sasha Power, an African American girl with special learning needs. Sister Celesta worked with her for 19 years! Sasha left the E.E.I. when she was 31!

Celesta hopes when she dies people will remember her “dedication to the Apostolate of the Enthronement of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.” Begun in 1945 as a collaborative effort between the Bishop of Scranton (Hafey), Marywood College and the IHM Congregation, the Apostolate’s Sister Moderator was an IHM. Celesta replaced Sister Eamon O'Neill who replaced Sister Romaine Krug. In this ministry, technology has been a tool to both communicate about and support those engaged in this work.

Last fall, Celesta’s computer stopped working. At that time, her dear friend, Sister Monica Byrne, was dying. One day I stopped in to visit Monica and found Celesta praying at her bedside. I noticed there was a small note attached to Monica's laptop. Monica had left directions that upon her death her laptop was to go to Celesta! Divine Providence?

At OLP, Celesta reaches out to the needs of the sisters by using her technology skills to make cards and banners that make some days for people just a little more special.

Sister Celesta still actively engages in the Enthronement’s ministry and with its current coordinator, Maria Pappa. When Sister Celesta has time, her spiritual reading includes a biblical commentary! So it should come as no surprise that Celesta describes her journey and her life now as a “spiritual awakening” ever evolving as she journeys home.

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Sister Mary William Philbin, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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mary william and aides
L-R: Geyshelle Brown, Margo Matticks, Sister Mary William Philbin and Ilia Barra

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Sister Mary William and
Sister Janet Rossiter

“We are blest to have her here. Amen!”

Until now, I have exclusively focused on OLP residents. However, recently I ran into Sister Mary William. I then went into the nurses’ station and asked how often Mary William helped out here. The nurse replied, "I’m not sure, but she’s here more often than I am!” So, though she resides at St. Clare’s Convent, Sister Mary William Philbin is definitely an important member of the OLP community and she seems a perfect subject for an OLP profile.

While I will include some background, I’ve decided to mostly focus on her time here at OLP and supplement her remarks with comments from her OLP colleagues.

Born in Scranton and baptized Mary Therese, one of five girls, she entered the IHMs in 1964 and was given the name of her parents, Mary William. She served as an elementary school teacher from 1969 to 2016, including as a first grade teacher at St. Clare’s School from 1987 to
2016.

After her retirement from teaching, Mary William came to OLP as a Telespond Volunteer. However, she spends so much time at OLP; she is described as a member of the OLP support services.

Some of the staffing in Household 1C comes from the LIFE program, but all of the residents in 1C have challenges. Having observed Mary William as a first grade teacher, it seems to me that many of her skills make her quite suited to the work she is now doing.

But, I’m thinking of an experience I had observing her in her first grade classroom. One day, I was in her classroom with a camera, waiting for someone to come and observe her teach. When I alerted her that the "observer" was near, Mary William turned to the class that was actively and noisily engaged in some project and said, “Boys and Girls! Boys and Girls! The one 'who knows a lot' is coming!” While I found myself chuckling at her phrasing, I turned and looked at the students. They’d immediately stopped and she had their attention. More importantly, they were standing tall and eager and I realized that “knows a lot” was just the right phrasing for the age group she was addressing.

Mary William respects the sisters on first floor and even stoops down to be sure she’s at their eye-level when talking with them. She convinces them that she has conferred with the doctors to get them to eat, drink and cooperate with the staff. When visitors arrive she’ll even dance with the sisters. She is sad that the quarantine means the sisters’ lives aren’t “brightened by good friends and loving relatives.”

Beyond her ministry to the residents, it’s apparent that Mary William also ministers to the staff as well. The 1A and 1B staffs were eager to add these comments to her profile:
• She is filled with energy, positivity, and compassion.
• She is the “sunshine of the IHM.”
• I have never met any human being with such warmth, kindness, and sincerity.
• She makes my day.
• The sisters depend on her and would be lost without her.
• She sees the good in everyone.
Yes, Amen!


Sister Loretta Mulry, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Loretta and FLA Sisters
Members of Florida Sunshine Mission Group in 2014. L-R front: Sisters Mary Schoberg, Loretta Mulry, Beatrice Caulson, Lisa Perkowski. Back:
Helene Hicks, Flo Marino, Nancy Elder, and Ann Berendes.

Loretta and FLA Council of Catholic Women
The Titusville Council of Catholic Women kitchen
crew for the luncheon at the Annual Fashion Show.
L-R: Lee Tootil, Pat Urbano, Sister Loretta Mulry, and Norma Rothenberg

“If I am going to teach… why not teach for God.”

Loretta Mulry was born in Brooklyn, the oldest of 3 children followed by a brother, Philip, Jr., and sister, Evelyn. With a mother caring for two children under the age of two, Loretta learned responsibility young, doing tasks outside the home to help her mother.

The family moved to Port Washington, where Loretta met the IHMs in 7th grade at St. Peter's School. They had a tradition of sending two students dressed as IHMs to a diocesan mass. Loretta’s name was selected! She wondered if this was a “sign from God.” She wanted to become a teacher and concluded “if I’m going to be a teacher, why not teach for God?” At St. Mary’s Loretta met and was influenced greatly by Sister Susan McMenamin, her chorus and band director.

By profession of her profession, Loretta, aka, Sister St. Laurence, had decided to be a science teacher. So Loretta taught elementary school in Clarks Green for four years and commuted on Saturdays to complete her degree.

Loretta taught high school science for sixteen years. Her favorite mission was St. John’s in Pittston, where she increased her physics’ background watching “Sunrise Semester” (on CBS). At least 30 students have remained good friends and she has tapped about 100 of them for the Silver Circle program!

After five years on the science faculty at Marywood College, Loretta served there as dean of the Gillet School for six years. Then she joined her family in Florida becoming the dean at Barry University where she served for eleven years.

Moving to FL allowed Loretta to spend time with her sister. After an accident when she was nineteen years old, Evelyn became a severe quadriplegic. Nonetheless, she travelled extensively, pursued a degree, worked as a social worker, had a child and was also a para-olympian!

After her service as dean and because of Evelyn’s husband’s premature death, Loretta moved to live with her sister. She continued serving Barry University as middle management in web design, grants research, and marketing.

In Florida only five years, Loretta fell and injured her left quadricep tendon. She managed her last twenty years by surgery/therapy/a walker, a cane and, at times, a wheel chair.

In 2006, her brother purchased a seventeen room house (Casa Maria) to be used as a convent. Besides her sister, one IHM and one SCC lived there. Loretta also invited other IHMs to vacation and retreat there.

Loretta surrounded herself with members of her Titusville parish’s Council of Catholic Women.

After 25 years Loretta returned to OLP where she helps maintain the building’s inventory and has edited documents for the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC).

Loretta is also drawn to a “contemplative” life, being especially impacted by doing the 19th Annotations.

Loretta believes the OLP Sisters should participate in the congregation’s governance. She takes the time to watch the Advisory Board meetings and takes copious notes. She’s organized “The Centennials” who meet after the meeting to discuss agenda topics.

She meets with her former Marywood colleagues who socialize and play games… now they continue to meet using Zoom!

In the time of COVID-19, Loretta has more time and fills it with communications and prayer. Not going to the main dining room—a source of in-house news—and with the depressing quality of the national news, having stimulating dinner conversation is challenging. Loretta has taken to “surprising her household” by cooking part of one evening meal weekly… mostly by using leftovers from the day’s noontime dinner.

Loretta believes “life is what you make it” and, at OLP, she has been able to create a fulfilling life.


Sister Mary Ehling, IHM   by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

Mary Ehling

ehling modifiedSeptember 1966, Mary Ehling, aka Sister M. St. Gregory

mary plaque1991, St. Mary's Girls High School, Manhasset, NY, where Sister Mary served as principal.

4B sistersOLP 4B community. L-R standing, Lenore Thomas, Joyce Marks. Seated, Raymond Mary McIntyre, Mary Ehling. Not pictured, Eileen Coleman

The Grace of Perseverance

Being in quarantine at OLP means this month’s interview was being done via Zoom. Luckily, I had selected Sister Mary Ehling. She represents a new residential experience at OLP known affectionately as the “4Bs.” Five sisters live as a local community on the fourth floor at OLP. They live as an independent community without the regular nursing services provided to other households.

Born in Queens, Mary’s father was a CPA and his mathematical skills were definitely passed along to Mary! She decided to attend St. Mary’s Girls’ School in Manhasset and rode Mr. Jablonski’s (father of Sister Barbara) bus to school! St. Mary's was often the source of many vocations, and Mary was one of five graduates who entered the congregation after graduation.

Mary taught math for 15 years before she was assigned to Bishop O’Hara High School in Dunmore, and became the school’s vice-principal.

At Seton Catholic in Pittston, Mary was the principal of a K-12 school. Here she experienced the painful task of having to close a school. The congregation decided the grade school’s enrollment was too low. Despite such a difficult experience for faculty, students and parents, Mary does look back at Seton as one of her fondest experiences – primarily because of the support she had from her local community at the time.

While at Bishop Klonowski High School, she finally pursued a school administration credential (from Catholic University). After only two years, the diocese told Mary that the school was going to close. Mary, however, insisted the school not close but “merge” with Bishop Hannan High School.

Later when she returned home to her alma mater, St. Mary's in Manhasset as principal, Mary learned that the boys’ and girls’ high schools were going to merge and the principal of the boys’ school would become the principal of both.

I share these experiences to show that Mary understands the challenges of small business closings today during this coronavirus crisis.

After a sabbatical at Weston School of Theology, Mary served the poor and homeless AIDS patients, making sure they got their benefits.

In 2000, while visiting her brother for the holidays, Mary suffered a major stroke during Christmas Eve Mass. She returned to the Marian Convent for rehab. The therapists set goals so she could return to school - including managing the subway and living at a convent without an elevator. Mary moved from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane and says that she would walk on the treadmill “until she was blue in the face.”

Then, Mary returned to NYC to the business office at the Dominican Academy. Though a financially elite institution, the students had a strong service ministry to the poor. Desiring to live in an IHM community, Mary moved to East Harlem and traveled to Dominican Academy every day on  public transportation.

With the closure of the East Harlem convent, Mary moved in with the Charity Sisters until that convent also closed. Finally, she decided it was time to come to Scranton and work in the congregation’s business office. Then, the 4B community at OLP was created. The railings in the hallway, the handicapped-access bathrooms and elevator meet her remaining physical limitations.

OLP has given her a new outlook on the end of life and death. Funerals here are a time of celebration and, like the building’s name, a place of peace. Her only discomfort is listening to the stories at the sisters' wakes. She wonders what people will say about her… has she lived “a good enough life?” Well, I can easily tell her she need not worry! She has obediently carried out difficult decisions and worked with great determination to return to service. Though all IHMs have been called to pray for the “grace of perseverance,” it is obvious that Mary has been given that grace! And, in these days of struggle and worry about the future, Mary serves as our beacon of hope!


Sister Mary Ann Adams, IHM   by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

“Do not fear what will happen tomorrow…” - St. Francis de Sales

2-Mary Ann Adams profession day - June 23 1963-sm
Profession day,
June 23 1963

Mary Ann Adams and father E. Norman Adams-sm
Sister Mary Ann with her father in front of the grotto

Sister Mary Ann Adams’ story includes wisdom so needed for these times!

By first grade, Mary Ann was certain that she wanted to be a sister/teacher. She attended most of her grade school with the IHMs at St. Matthew School, Wilmington, DE. Mary Ann was attracted to the IHMs because they were friendly, happy and excellent teachers. She also knew the IHMs because her parents served as the sisters’ drivers and Mary Ann often was a passenger on those trips. One does wonder if the number of vocations dwindled once the sisters got their drivers’ licenses!

Mary Ann’s early IHM years were impacted by the pre-Vatican II creation of The Sister Formation Program. It formally established the Juniorate for the purpose of guaranteeing that sisters would not go on Mission until they had first received their degrees.

Mary Ann’s became a Junior High/High School history teacher. She often speaks “in stories” and, her laughter, as she tells – often tragic - health tales, reflects the fact that her greatest strength is her sense of humor.

When she was 27, she was sent to Puerto Rico. Not long after that, she developed her first autoimmune disease. Though it took almost eight months to get her home, she was certain that the congregation was always concerned about her health and getting her the medical treatment she needed. 

When she returned to the states, she began her ministry at Little Flower School in Bethesda, MD. In part, to insure the stability of her medical care, Mary Ann remained at Little Flower for 33 years! She taught two generations of students. Perhaps the best example of her impact on her students was the return of a former student who’d become a famous musician. He needed a picture of the Little Flower. He wanted a tattoo of it so it would always be with him!

Mary Ann’s time in Bethesda was also a journey of accumulating multiple health issues and autoimmune diseases. As we fear infection by the Coronavirus, her mother’s assurance that “whatever I can do from heaven, I will do” should comfort us all as we think of our deceased family and IHM Sisters.

Though her physical limitations grew especially challenging at Bethesda, Mary Ann says that the faculty “enabled” her to continue ministry there for at least ten extra years. She did, however, come to the decision herself, that it was time; that she was ready to come back to Scranton.

Though she resides at OLP for its medical support, she continues as the congregation’s Director of Ministry Resources at the IHM Center or, like many these days, from her remote office at OLP. She works for Sister Ellen Maroney as the congregation’s direct contact with every diocese in which IHMs serve. As an historian, it’s clear that she has an incredible number of facts about the congregation in her knowledge base.  One task she performs is to proofread obituaries. “Sisters gave their lives to the ministry of the congregation, so we owe them the most accurate obituary we can give them.”

Perhaps her greatest message to us these days is the fact that she daily says the prayer of St. Francis DeSales:
“Be at Peace! God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms. Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. Amen!”

Mary Ann Adams and student dressed as pirate 1995-sm
October 31, 1995 Halloween Parade – Little Flower School, L-R: Linda Pastorek, faculty, Francisco, student, Sister Mary Ann. Francisco is now Revered Francisco Aguirre of The Archdiocese of Washington. He visited Sister Mary Ann a few weeks ago.


Sister Kathleen McNulty, IHM   by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

KathleenMcNulty1

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Kathleen McNulty was born in West Side (“West Side the Best Side”) Scranton in 1929 on October 30th (“The first witch to come early!” – the day before Halloween) and the day after the stock market crash! Kathleen was the baby of her family (“I may be spoiled, but I will be burying you all!”) and had an older sister, Mary and a brother, Joseph.

She attended St. Patrick’s grade and high school. Though she realized she had a call to religious life in her freshman year, she kept it a secret until the last possible date in her Senior Year (when she had to explain why she didn’t want  a scholarship to Marywood!). Kathleen had hopes of a fun and active social life and didn’t want it limited by the stereotype of a “future religious.”

Kathleen (Sister Spiritus) chose IHM because they laughed and seemed to have fun together! She was strongly influenced by both Sister Cormac and Sister Davida. From Sister Cormac she developed a desire to be a math teacher (and her organizational skills) but, as many have already guessed, it was Sister Davida who taught her how to love poetry and literature and whose influence guided many of her ministry choices.

Kathleen entered in 1948 and, shortly thereafter, three sisters died and she discovered the practice of saying nine rosaries for each sister! (29 in all!). She confessed that she didn’t quite complete that task!

Her first assignment was in “the White (elementary) School” in Washington, NC. She didn’t understand racism until the consolidation of the “White and the Black” churches and the need to cross picket lines!

From the mid-1950s through the mid-1980s, Kathleen taught secondary English and moderated the school newspaper. These assignments finely tuned Kathleen’s proofreading and editorial skills. She says her happiest day was when the Immaculata High School (33rd St., NYC) newspaper was submitted to a competition and won First Place Overall! Later, Kathleen and her students paraded their trophy down 5th Ave.! (She doesn’t claim full responsibility for that award – she did follow Sister Marionette Coll!). In fact, in 1977, she accepted Sister Marionette’s invitation to be Marywood’s Director of Public Relations and Editor!

Later, she worked in the Scranton Diocesan Office as the Director of Strategic Planning. There she also first worked with Sister Terry O’Rourke, who came to appreciate her editing skills.

In 1994 she came to live at the IHM Center (in the local community that included the Novices – which is where she met her dearest friend, Sister Joan McCusker). She was the co-chair of the sesquicentennial celebrations—there were six!

In 1998, she returned to the IHM Center until her final move to OLP in 2018. Along with Sister Eleanor Desaluniers, she started and computerized the IHM Archives. In 2007, she officially became the “Congregation’s Editor.”

We also know that Kathleen spent most chapter and assembly meetings as “the Official Meeting Secretary.” You will find Kathleen’s signature on many documents in the Archives - that means Kathleen has not only “edited” but has also recorded much of the Scranton IHM Story.

Joan McCusker was present for Kathleen’s interview. "How lucky, having survived a stroke, to have a friend who’s also your 'memory.'" So, I asked Joan if she’d like to say something to Kathleen now that one ordinarily saved until a vesper service. Joan’s response was that her dear friend is “sharp-witted, tremendously kind, fair and genuine. (She tells it like it is!) She’s honest, has integrity and is “funny as a crutch!” Ask Joan! What more can I add?


Sister Josephine Cioffi, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

“I always wanted to be with the children.”

Josephine Cioffi St Ann in Harlem
Sister Josephine at St. Ann
Elementary School in Harlem where she served as principal from
1984 to 2014.

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L- R: John (father), Josephine, Luisa (mother), Frances (sister)

Cioffi ncea award
Sister Josephine 
 holds the NCEA 
Distinguished Principal Award she received
 in 2002
 


John Cioffi arrived from Italy having had his immigration process accelerated because he’d fought on the American side during WWI. Later he returned home for his brother’s ordination. There he met Luisa (also) Cioffi. Luisa was a widow with one daughter—Jeanette. Their mothers were good friends and they decided that their children should marry! John returned to New York while Luisa needed permission from the dictator, Mussolini, to bring her daughter to America. Surprisingly, the Italian dictator did give his permission as he believed in the "integrity of the family.”

Thus, John and Luisa settled on East 118th Street in East Harlem. Josephine has another older sister—Frances. Josephine grew up in the primarily Italian section of East Harlem. A “first generation” American, when Josephine was only in fourth grade, she helped her mother prepare for her
citizenship test.

Josephine travelled to 33rd Street to attend Immaculata High School where she first met the Scranton IHMs. Here she met Sister Herberta. Josephine recalls that Sister Herberta seemed to have an insight into potential vocations and took a particular interest in them.

Josephine arrived in Scranton in 1959. Her first question about the city: “Where’s the subway!?” Entering the IHMs in those pre-Vatican II years, Josephine had another problem —she couldn’t sing! But, ever the problem-solver, Josephine realized she just needed to find a skill she could do well. So, she learned to lector! Soon, many special celebrations found her at the lectern. Josephine took the name Lucia, the patroness of the blind, as Josephine suffered from vision loss which was later able to be corrected by cataract surgery.

Josephine spent ten years teaching in the elementary classroom. When she went to Nativity School in Scranton, she was assigned to teach Junior High Math. She discovered she loved it! Classroom management became easier because students had to really follow her as she taught them to solve problems. Thus, she enrolled in a Masters in Teaching Math degree at Catholic University. Soon, however, she was also being asked to assume the role of principal.

In 1984 Josephine moved to St. Ann’s in Eastern Harlem and stayed for thirty years! In many ways Josephine was home! While principal, she always continued to teach at least one class and knew all of the students by name. As a first generation American, Josephine had an affinity for students with special learning needs. Thus, St. Ann School became the first school in the diocese to have a program for special needs students. However, Josephine’s motivation for doing so was not so much for the special needs students, but rather for the “regular” students. She hoped to raise their level of empathy and acceptance of special needs students. She also met the needs of her faculty, providing them special support to teach in a way that met their needs.

Josephine’s leadership—in this area as well as in integrating technology, choral music and an aftercare program—brought her special recognition not only on a diocesan level but as an NCEA Distinguished Principal. She received, as well, the National U.S. Distinguished Principal Award.

Josephine retired after having been the founding principal of the NativityMiguel School in Scranton. She lives here at OLP, finding her way in this newest adventure of her life’s journey. She’s begun with the same technique she used when she first entered. She’s lectoring—a skill at which she knows she excels. It’s been my blessing, not just to hear her story but to also record it for posterity. May we never forget her dedication to the children and the remarkable things she is still accomplishing.

Cioffi Cooking class
Cooking Class at NativityMiguel School

josephine at miguel

Sister Josephine at the NativityMiguel School
of Scranton where she served as its first principal
from 2015 - 2017.


Sister Rita Ann Naughton, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Rita with her therapy dog, Curly

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“If I could… I would teach each child to be positive, to smile, to love and be loved!”

Sister Rita Ann Naughton and I have one very important fact in common. We share a birthday—March 20th (hers – 1937)—the first day of spring! Sister Rita Ann is the older daughter of Ida and Paul, born in Cascade, PA, a suburb of Williamsport.

Rita was taught by IHM sisters in St. Joseph’s School in Williamsport. Sister Rosalita began to cultivate Rita's IHM vocation by inviting her to church on Saturdays to work as a sacristan. In her senior year, she met Sister Barbara DuMont. Sister Barbara was kind, approachable and her math tutor.

Entering right after high school, Rita Ann was sent out to teach before she’d completed her degree. She secretly hoped she’d be sent to teach “black” students. Her wish came true when her first mission was to Upper Marlboro where she taught first and second grade in “the black school.” The “black” and the “white” schools were not only separate but they were unequal and all black families were required to sit in the back of the church.

Later, Sister Rita Ann's mother’s health deteriorated enough that Rita needed to go on home ministry. She earned a salary teaching religious education at St. Boniface Church. While she was on home ministry, Rita also initiated an IHM Circle of Grace to bring women into an IHM Associate
Relationship.

Rita also made the decision that she wanted a “therapy dog” and, thus began a 17 year relationship with Curly who first had to complete all of the necessary training courses before he was officially certified.

When her mother died, Rita was now faced with finding her own employment. She took a position as the activity director in the Alzheimer wing of a local nursing home. Later, her knees began to deteriorate. A neighbor asked if she could just “check on her Mother.” Her new ministry of “companion to the elderly” had begun. Initially, she performed this support while the woman lived at home. The woman—Mrs. Baird—who lived to be 101!— later went to a personal care home. It wasn’t long before Rita and Curly were orchestrating events for all residents. By now Rita had developed a reputation and within the week after Mrs. Baird’s death, she was called to companion another woman.

She’d met a student from Africa who at one point went back home. However, when Rena became pregnant, she wanted her child to be born in America. Rita invited Rena to live with her. She also companioned her in birthing training and accompanied her to the delivery room where Alysia was born!

Sister Rita Ann’s Williamsport ministries came to an unexpected end one weekend. She became ill and came to OLP to recuperate. She also stayed with her friend, Jane Roche, a well-known IHM Associate. Later, given her mobility challenges, it was decided she should move to OLP. Here she is still giving back. She can be found calling Bingo or leading other game activities. If there’s a special party, she often comes in costume!

As she ages, she has one wish—“don’t let me lose my hearing!” She loves music! The IHMs gave her piano lessons for years!

Finally, she shared a quote with me that she values: “I would teach each child (and sister) that it is O.K. to show their feelings  by laughing, crying, or touching someone they care about. Every day I would have each child (adult) feel special and, through my actions, each one would know how
much I really care.”


Sister M. Carleen Boehlert, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

“My eyes were opened and I did something about it.”

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Carleen Boehlert-Postulant 1950-sm

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Grace Therese Boehlert was born in Oneida, NY on September 28, 1929, less than a month before the Wall Street Crash. She is the fifth of nine children of Grace and Carl. Carl was a WWI veteran and Columbia University-trained pharmacist. Though her early years were lived during the depression and her father both owned and lost ownership of a pharmacy, Sister Carleen described her home life as “one happy family.”

Sister Carleen attended St. Patrick’s grade school where she met the IHMs. After high school she attended nursing school in Utica, NY. Sensing a call to religious life, Carleen approached the superior of St. Patrick’s Convent and her pastor and then decided to apply to the Scranton IHMs. Carleen came to Scranton in November 1950. Up until then she remained home to take her Nursing State Boards. After profession, Carleen remained at the Motherhouse specifically to provide nursing care to Reverend Mother Marcella Gill, IHM, who spent her final years in office battling cancer. Mother Marcella completed her term but died not long after in the fall of 1955. By 1956 Sister Carleen was off to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Carbondale. During those early years she trained in Allentown to become a nurse anesthetist, after which she spent much of her time in the operating room at St. Joseph’s Hospital. In addition to that work, Carleen also joined the nursing staff at the hospital’s newly-opened oncology clinic. A local newspaper review of the facility described it as a “family” and, despite their diagnosis, the patients there were happily exchanging recipes!

After 26 years in Carbondale, Carleen accepted the position of administrator of the Marian Convent. Though her resume of the twelve years she spent there lists a number of achievements, Carleen considers her greatest accomplishment the creation of a prayer chapel on third floor. She approached her own family to donate the furnishings, including the tabernacle that came from Rome. The Chapel’s crucifix was brought to Scranton from Florida by her brother who made a donation from his wife’s antique collection!

At age 65, Carleen thought of retirement and trained as a VISTA volunteer. The first phase of her “retirement” lasted 23 years working for Friends of the Poor. She says she “saved the best for last!” Carleen provided simple nursing care to the poor in the Valley View Terrace Housing Project. “I thought I knew about poverty before, but people must really go and see for themselves – even in Scranton – what the poor must endure.” One of the permanent signs of Carleen’s time there is the plaque at the playground. Sister Carleen coordinated the construction of that playground.

In 2017 Carleen needed a knee replacement. Though her hope was to return to her ministry at Friends of the Poor, she was never able to recover her balance and thus she began the final phase of her retirement at Our Lady of Peace Residence. One of the great comforts here is that she’d convinced the administration to set aside a space on the fourth floor where all of the chapel furnishing from the Marian Convent could be transferred. In September, the Boehlert family organized a surprise 90th birthday party and as part of the celebration, they gifted her with a stain-glassed window that honors their “Aunt Grace” by naming the space “The Grace Chapel.”

These days Carleen has a daily routine. She sets out after lunch and begins “her visits.” If people recall anything about her, she hopes it’s “when my eyes were opened, I did something about it.” There’s no worry, there will be many who will definitely remember.


Sister Claire Kulp, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh   

Claire Kulp-Anne Fulwiler-Margaret BenfieldSisters Claire, Margaret Benfield, Anne Fulwiler

Claire Kulp-Mary Ann CodySisters Mary Ann Cody
and Claire

Claire Kulp and Immaculata Sisters-Silver JubileeImmaculata Sisters Margo, Paula, and Peggy with Claire

Claire Kulp and Seton Catholic Student Council Dec 2000Sister Claire and Seton Catholic Student Council Officers

“Remember Me As Funny”

Sister Claire Marie Kulp, IHM was known as the “Princess” in her family. Born in Philadelphia, the Kulp children read the “Landmarks” books and spent hours touring those locations.

When an opportunity came along for college students to teach in diocesan schools while they pursued their degrees, Claire reached out to second grade students in an elementary school run by the Philadelphia IHMs. There she met Sister Margaret Benfield, IHM and the two women travelled together while completing their degrees. Thus began a lifelong friendship. Claire entered the Philadelphia IHMs when she was 26.

Claire was called to religious life but was not destined to be a Philadelphia IHM. Margaret mentioned there were two other IHM Congregations – Monroe and Scranton. Claire was still called to IHM. She just needed a turnpike drive to get to the right Motherhouse! But, those early months can build powerful relationships. Several Philadelphia IHMs from her original band recently visited to celebrate their 40th Jubilee!

Claire met with the Scranton IHM Vocation Director and began her Affiliate Year - living at home and quarterly attending weekends with other Affiliates. Before Claire entered, her friend, Margaret, had already transferred and was completing the process of incorporation.

Sister Johanne Barry IHM impacted Claire’s ministry choices—convincing her to pursue a degree in Secondary Education/History. Johanne believed high schools were the source of our vocations! Later, she convinced Claire to pursue a degree in social studies. Finally, Johanne became Principal at Seton Catholic High School.

After first profession, Claire went to St. Dominic’s High School in Oyster Bay. There Sister Mary Ann Cody helped Claire continue her journey. As the local community's coordinator, Mary Ann was responsible for mentoring Claire through to her final vows. Later, Claire came to Seton Catholic and they either lived near each other or together in the rectory of the parish in which Mary Ann now serves.

Claire’s favorite mission—where she served for more than 20 years—was Seton Catholic High School in Pittston. To help seniors be better prepared for college writing assignments, she brought them to the IHM monthly prayer services! She recalled boys from the baseball team coming in uniform, covered in grime! She also took them on service trips with Sister Ancilla and to the IHM Summer Splash program. Claire’s classroom was filled with IHM posters—the Charism, the Mission Statement, the Core Values and the Direction Statement. Students were tested on them! Claire says “I discovered I’d fallen in love with Seton Catholic – the school, faculty, students and even the parents!”

In 2007, Seton Catholic and two other high schools merged into one school, Holy Redeemer in Wilkes Barre. Claire’s growing medical issues resulted in her retirement from teaching shortly thereafter.

Claire suffers from a number of medical challenges. She has rheumatoid arthritis; a heart condition and a pulmonary condition that requires her to be on oxygen. She’s had knee replacements and a foot condition that requires her to use a walker. Despite that, for four years, Claire volunteered as a receptionist at the McAuley Center, a ministry which serves homeless women and children At OLP, through her prayer ministry, Claire is able to pray for those she used to serve actively.

Despite these struggles, Claire enthusiastically shared that the Magnificat was her favorite Gospel—especially the phrase... ”and God has done great things for me...” Why such gratitude? Claire replied, it’s because the Scranton IHMs made a home for her. They care for her—despite the costs of her medical needs. She knows she’s called to the IHM charism of joyful, loving service.

As I left her room, she said “I hope they remember me as funny!”


Sister Louis Marie Verchick, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh

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IMG_20190925_102618L-R with Sister Louis Marie are IHM maintenance staff Tony Mascaro, Steve Gatto, and Tom Snyder

LouisMarieVerchick1995MonroeBand members 1995 at the Sesquicentennial in Monroe. L-R: Lillian Marie Farrell, Vincentia Dorsey, Mariam Pfeifer, Louis Marie Verchick, and Catherine Ann Gilvary

"I Was Born Happy!”

Sister Louis Marie Verchick, IHM (“Louie”) was born in Marsteller, PA – a small mining town outside of Pittsburg, population 500. She was baptized Mary Lois. The oldest child of Louis and Edna, she has three sisters and four brothers. Louie’s father was a school bus driver and, while her mother stayed at home, she was a big fan of BINGO!

After high school, Lois spent three years working in a factory in Cleveland assembling that “new invention”—the television!

Becoming an IHM was a struggle for Louie. The IHMs are predominately a “teaching” community but she didn’t want to teach. Louie has a hearing impairment. She even returned home for surgery. Though the surgery was not successful, her aunt, Sister Cyprian Weakland, IHM, advocated for her return. Louie was sent out to do what she didn’t want to do—teach. However, she did have a “super power.” She’d been sent for training at a school for the deaf and hearing impaired. Louie can read lips! Sister Katie Gilvary asked Louie what she’d learned. She replied, “I learned that you are ‘Lip-Lazy’!” Sadly, in her early thirties,    Louie developed a cold that resulted in even greater hearing loss.

After 9 years in a primary classroom, Louie was assigned to the Marian Convent and trained to be a nurse’s aide. She really liked working with the older sisters—they called her “Momma!” After nine happy years, Louie spent a year and a half at St. Joseph’s Center. Then Mother Beata again approached Louie and told her she really belonged back at the Marian—“You make the sisters happy!” I suspect, however, in her own wisdom, Mother Beata knew that working at the Marian would also make Louie happy. Given the age of the sister-residents—many have a hearing impairment.   Louie’s disability no longer made her unique. Staff and residents often spoke louder to each other. Louie can also give you that “what did you say?” look and she gets you to do what she needs—look directly at her and articulate clearly. Now you are communicating with her in a way that helps a “lip reader” be successful!

After thirty-five years, Louie moved to the IHM Center to supervise the maintenance and housekeeping staff. She chuckles and as she confesses that she “liked the guys the best.” They didn’t talk much. They did their work! Her partiality to the maintenance staff was not limited to the IHM Center. If you travelled around the campus at noontime, you’d often see Louie briskly walking with her rosary beads swinging at her side. She regularly stopped to greet the university’s maintenance staff.

Louie will long be remembered for two virtues. Her generosity is evident in the more than 860 afghans she’s made and gave to family, friends, sisters, staff or sold at Heartworks. And her name has often topped the list of Silver Circle Sellers contributing untold thousands of dollars towards the IHM Retirement Fund. Louie’s technique is simple. She comes from a large family of very generous people.

Most of all, Louie describes herself as happy. She was born into a happy home and learned to be happy just by observing her parents. “Life is what you make it. If you’re not happy, it’s your own fault!” says the woman who has had a stroke and is now confined to a wheelchair with a brace on her arm. In fact, when you talk to her, she seems to giggle as she speaks. More importantly, after spending time with her, YOU leave feeling happy yourself!


Sister St. Mel Wright, IHM by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM and Sister Mary Ellen Malloy, IHM

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“I don’t know her name… but… I know she’s my best friend.” At Our Lady of Peace Residence at least twenty-five percent of the sisters aren’t able to tell me their stories. They have set off on that “long journey home” known as dementia. Unless, of course, your name is Sister St. Mel Wright and you have a “best friend” in Sister Mary Ellen Malloy who can serve as your living memory.

Barbara Catherine Wright is the sixth of Catherine and Leland Burgess Wright’s seven children. When Mel was four her mother, pregnant with her seventh child—Jimmy —took a fall. Mrs. Wright was physically disabled for the rest of her life. Thus, at an early age, Mel learned how to teach the young and care for the old.

Barbara attended St. Bernadine’s School in Baltimore and was trained by the IHMs—including a Sister Kathleen who went on to become Mother Kathleen Hart, IHM Superior General.

Mel experienced death early. Her parents travelled to a Virginia Naval Base when Mel’s oldest brother, Jack, set off for WWII Europe. By the time they returned to Baltimore, they learned that Jack’s ship had been bombed by the Germans and he was dead. In the ‘80s, Mel’s youngest brother, Jimmy, was a victim of a hit and run. But the greatest trauma of all was Mel’s mother’s death when Mel was a junior in high school.

As an IHM, Mel ministered as a first and second grade teacher. Her first mission was St. Ephrem’s in Brooklyn and there she met Mary Ellen Malloy who came to the convent to speak to the sisters about becoming a sister. Mary Ellen says their friendship was “love at first sight”—a bonding of opposites—the loud and the quiet!

Throughout her life, Sister St. Mel showed her versatility and leadership in a series of ministries. Mel left teaching first grade to become the Directress of Postulants at St. Rocco’s Convent in Pittston. However, she never quite adjusted to using her primary teaching skills to train young adult women!

She was then elected Western Sector Superior. Next, St. Mel moved to Cresco to be trained in spiritual direction. Then she got a phone call from Sister Redempta Sweeney about a “dream job.” Mel loved the older sisters and she’d always wanted to work at the Marian Convent. She was going to be responsible for the sisters’ direct care needs. One wonders what Mel thought when she noticed her own initial signs of dementia having companioned so many sisters on that journey.

Mary Ellen wanted a picture of Anne Boylan, currently the second floor day shift nurse, with this article because Mel has been so proud of Anne. Anne believes Mel cared for all the staff. She related how, in winter weather, staff arrived with overnight bags and Mel greeted them at the door. She’d already prepared their rooms each with a basket of treats! Mel later carried on that practice at the IHM Center. Remember her when you enjoy those snacks! Anne says the staff were so grateful that Mel started her long journey home on second floor. They love #St.Melhugs—that’s “twitter-ese” for St. Mel Hugs & Kisses! Finally, Anne concluded, "Well, maybe it was because she knew I was a single mother.” Ah!

These days Mel spends time looking through her pictures and visiting Mary Ellen’s room. I’m jealous of Mary Ellen. She can still get Mel to smile. But, Mary Ellen immediately and sincerely answers, “That’s enough for me!” Smiles, more than sixty 60 years’ worth of memories, including a trip to Ireland and a visit to St. Mel’s Cathedral, and a “holy story” recorded for posterity! Amen!


Sister Dolores M. Filicko, IHM  by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM   

A Woman of Integrity and Servant to the Truth

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Elizabeth Ligda arrived from Slovakia in 1908 and met her future husband, John Filicko, in Wilkes-Barre, PA and there they raised a family of five.

Born on September 13th, 1928, which was followed by the Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14th) and the feast of Our Lady of the Seven Dolors—the Patroness of Slovakia (September 15th), her parents honored this link to their Slovak Heritage by naming their youngest child “Dolores” at her Baptism ten days later. To this day, Dolores honors these three spiritual events as a completion to the celebration of her birthday.

For six years after graduation, Dolores worked in various office positions. Though dating during this time, she’d become convinced that she was called to a religious vocation. However, like all major life choices, there seems to be the big picture call—married, single, religious life—and the specific decision of a person or a congregation to commit to for life. The decision to become an IHM may not have happened if it wasn’t for a friendship with a school principal—Sister Maria Clement Buckley, IHM. Dolores was the secretary for the Parochial Child Health Association which provided medical care to diocesan schools. Friendly office phone calls were followed by an invitation to see the convent’s Christmas tree, to conversations about religious life, to a surprise formal visit to Marywood to meet Reverend Mother Marcella Gill, IHM, to Entrance Day on September 8, 1952!

Dolores spent 15 years teaching students from middle school through high school. During this time, Sister Dolores was sent to Notre Dame where she earned an MBA. Soon, Sister Dolores moved to Marywood College where she served in various positions for 39 years!

Many of Dolores’ positions begin with the word “Director”—from student accounts and dorm director through to registrar. There are few support service areas at Marywood that haven’t known her handprint. It’s clear that Dolores provided leadership to the departments that formed its backbone and assured the smooth running of the university plant itself. Though she completed her Marywood years as an executive officer as the secretary of the university, Dolores always appreciated the way her superiors shared their vision but allowed her the creativity to carry it out in her own areas.

It is perhaps in her roles as both secretary of the university and assistant secretary to the board of trustees that one can understand some of her greatest gifts and values. Secretaries take the meeting’s minutes, what is often not appreciated; however, is the great effort a good secretary makes to hold back her own opinion and be “a servant to the truth.” Entrusted with the university’s official seal and empowered to be the signatory on official documents, when researchers come to write this period of the university’s history, the name Sister Dolores M. Filicko, IHM will appear there with high frequency.

In her post-Marywood years, Dolores continued to provide support services to both Friends of the Poor and the IHM Center. She is now delighted to be retired and living at Our Lady of Peace Residence. In her own words, “My ship has come in!” She takes seriously her role as a prayer minister and enjoys the slower tempo and the freedom to choose which activities she does and does not attend. Most of all, she is consoled by the presence of round-the-clock medical support staff if needed.

I’m sure at the end of her days, people will remember Sister Dolores as a woman of integrity and a servant to the truth.


Sister St. Kenneth Polley, IHM  by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM   

Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. -Psalm 23:6 PolleyStKenneth

Sister St. Kenneth (Jule) Polley is one of four children—Joan, Janet, and Kenny. She attended IHM-staffed schools—Cathedral grade school; Marywood Seminary and Marywood College.

Jule took piano lessons in grade school, was influenced by her sister, Joan’s, musical gifts and was encouraged to study the violin by Sister Maria Walter, IHM.

Her father insisted she wait before entering and begin classes at Marywood. Jule Polley was quite a tomboy and regularly played baseball with the boys. Mr. Polley wasn’t convinced nuns and tomboys went together! After graduation, Sister St. Kenneth went south to teach first grade—not her calling! She then became a high school music teacher (which also meant piano lessons before and after school bringing in much needed income).

Her favorite mission was South Catholic/Bishop Klonowski High School in Scranton. She finally felt confident and she’d discovered Gertrude Hawk (aka fundraising!) Now she could take students to NYC and Broadway! 

St Kenneth newsletterL-R: Sister Dolorosa Loughney, Sister St. Kenneth Polley, Carol Schaffer, and Janet Polley


Her time at South Catholic was interrupted. Kenneth’s sister, Joan, had won a Fulbright Scholarship and studied Opera in Italy at LaScalla. She returned to NYC hoping to perform at the Met. She married and had three children (a boy and two girls). Sadly, Joan developed cancer. Like many single fathers, Joan’s husband couldn’t work and care for young children. So, the children came to Scranton to be raised by their grandparents and Kenneth’s sister, Janet. Kenneth took a leave of absence to help raise the children (ages 11 months to 11 years) while Janet worked to support the family.

Later in life, Kenneth would return to “weekend home ministry” to care both for her elderly mother and Janet when she, too, developed cancer.

Kenneth did return to South Catholic and we met there in 1972 and became pals. I had the good fortune to be the accompanist for her glee club. To meet her now, you might think of Kenneth as somewhat timid. But, when I would begin an introduction, she would magically transform into a confident conductor! Kenneth taught me to sing through my eyes and tell my face to smile.

Deep and long-lasting friendships are a hallmark of Kenneth’s life. At Klonowski, Kenneth met Carol Schaffer—whose daughters were in Glee Club. Like many IHMs who have faithful lay friendships, Carol and Kenneth have been travelling companions since then.

Her commitment to friendship has been evident most of all in her compassionate relationship with Dolie—Sister Dolorosa. Years earlier on playground duty, Dolie’s eye was hit by a rock and she began to lose her vision. Later, the bones in her neck began to deteriorate. In her final years, when Dolie couldn’t raise her head, Kenneth became her eyes.

Kenneth joined support services initially at the Marian Convent, then OLP while living at Cathedral Convent. Later, the OLP Administration invited both St. Kenneth and Dolie to retire to OLP. Though both her sister, Janet, and her friend, Dolie, have died within the last two years, Kenneth says that “she has never been happier.” Why? She’s grateful for how well the staff cares for her and the freedom she has to live her life in a household of sisters she loves.

Interviewing her on her birthday, I was amazed at how many sisters and staff stopped by! As Psalm 23 says: St. Kenneth is a woman of “goodness and loving kindness.” What a great legacy!

Sister St. Kenneth Polley passed away on December 19, 2019. Click here to view her obituary.


Sister Richard Mary Peters, IHM - "A Lucky Duck" by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM   

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No one better embodies the ministry of “Support Staff” at Our Lady of Peace Residence than Sister Richard Mary Peters, IHM. Whether you meet her in the morning delivering the paper, or receive Communion from her at Mass, or ride with her as she takes you to your doctor, or pay her for the things she picked up for you at the drugstore, or, most importantly, are companioned by her on a late night trip to the emergency room, Richard’s ministry at OLP easily, at some point, touches every sister who lives there.

Richard met the IHMs as a student at St. Dominic’s School in Oyster Bay, Long Island. One of the most significant factors in her choice of religious life was her observation of the way the sisters related to each other. They were a living example of “joyful, loving service” and Richard wanted that kind of future for herself. Sister St. John Ortner prepared Richard for her IHM entrance. She belonged to “The Vocations Club,” and true to the IHM custom, members of the club were even given numbers!

Richard was born “Marilynn” which was not, as she was told by Mother Kathleen, a name after a patron saint. She was named for Marilynn Miller, a famous dancer. Richard’s mother hoped that her Marilynn would follow in the dancer’s footsteps. Thus, Marilynn began dancing class at age 3, flunked out of class by age 4, but, by age 5 she had become a champion cart-wheeler!

Richard’s father was not a Catholic, so when his daughter announced that she had a vocation he went to talk to the fireman’s chaplain at work. He returned home and told his daughter that she was doing a brave thing.

Richard was a second grade teacher for twenty-eight years. She coped with asthma all her life. But the combination of her asthma, a bad cold and a visit to a home of people who had dogs, caused Richard to go into respiratory arrest (earning her the title of “the Blue Nun”). Her treatment included prednisone, a steroid. As a result, her hip bone disintegrated and she ended up at the Marian Convent recovering from a hip replacement. One day Richard found herself in the hallway with Sister Rosemary Goulet who needed to take a sister to the hospital but had no one to accompany the sister. Richard volunteered to go, and the rest of the story, as they say, is history!

Because she goes to the emergency room at any time of day or night, unlike other staff, Richard resides at OLP. The walls in her room are covered with crucifixes! She can tell the story of each one and she prays for the creators and their home countries.

Nothing better characterizes this woman of service than her “emergency room ministry.” Richard is not just a sister's companion, she’s her advocate and she is well known and respected by all the ER staff she meets regularly.

She often spends late night and early morning hours at the hospital, many times with sisters who have hearing challenges and cognitive impairments. Most significantly, she brings with her the sister’s final directives. On more than one occasion, she has had to call a member of the leadership team to inquire if a DNR should be implemented. She then becomes the IHM representative for this sister in her final moments.

Richard entered the IHMs in those early post-Vatican II days. When it was time for her to come back to Marywood for the month-long retreat before final vows, her superior insisted she go to her second grade students, tell them where she was going and why, and promise them "she would be back!" One student remarked, “It’s like marrying God. You’re a lucky duck!” And… so are we!


Sister Janet Milan, IHM - "The Grace of Perseverance" by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM   

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Sisters come to OLP for many reasons: age and the physical and/or cognitive challenges common among the elderly. But others, like Sister Janet Milan, come mentally young but with a body that will no longer support a life lived independently. To put together a profile of Janet includes her physical health journey, but the bigger picture is of a generous life lived courageously.

Janet was born in Pittsburgh. She learned compassion by observing her parents—her mother’s simple acts of kindness and her father—a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society—who volunteered to care for the poor without claiming the credit. Janet was IHM educated—a graduate of St. Rosalia’s High School but she also attended a grade school staffed by another congregation. In the end, charism counts! Janet became an IHM because she’d met young sisters who had an obvious outreach to the poor.

Janet, formerly known as Sister M. Maliya, taught middle school and junior high. Unexpectedly, things changed. Janet shared that this year is 40 years since her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Janet is now 72. Her response to her diagnosis was relief after months looking for an explanation for the various physical symptoms of this disease that affects the nervous system. Once you know; you can take action! For Janet, action included leaving teaching and coming to the Marian Convent for 18 months of physical therapy. Surprising as it may seem, those months of therapy did put Janet’s MS into remission… a period of time with no active disease—that is still in place today. While Janet continued to experience numbness in her extremities, she returned to teaching for the next 35+ years!

Janet lists her 18 years of teaching in her hometown of Pittsburgh as her favorite ministry, not only because it was home but also because it allowed her to spend time with her aging parents before their deaths. Dealing with the challenges of MS would seem to be enough for one lifetime, but that was not to be for Janet. She not only needed to confront breast cancer and a mastectomy but, 20 years later, they discovered that the reconstruction procedure had left a small piece of the cancer behind and a second surgery was necessary.

Undaunted, Janet went to Clinton, MD where, 5 years ago, she fell and the pain called for a knee replacement. Somehow, an infection got into the wound. The on-going series of surgeries and infections and the fact that Medicare would no longer cover the costs of Janet’s therapy in a Clinton Nursing Home brought Janet to OLP.

Janet is not to be pitied. Though she spends much of her time confined to a wheelchair, Janet says that her favorite thing about being at OLP is its freedom! She has pieced together her own patchwork of jobs that make up her OLP ministry. For example, she helps handle the sisters’ personal accounts—distributing stipends or providing assistance to those who only access their accounts when needed.

What’s ahead for Janet? Another surgery on May 7th, hopefully, to completely remove the infection, and, six weeks later, another knee replacement. An optimist, Janet’s believes that, one day, she will return to walking unaided. (I’m sure she would appreciate your prayers that she is successful in all of these goals!)

As all IHMs are encouraged to do, it’s obvious that Janet has prayed for the “grace of perseverance” and, it is apparent that God has given her that grace a hundredfold!


Sister Angela Mary Parker, IHM - "Remember Me as Always Smiling" by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM     

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ParkersRestaurant1948smParker's Restaurant in Rocky Mount, NC, 1948.  L-R Grace, Mama, Chris, Lillie, Daddy, Evelyn

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Sister Angela Mary Parker was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and given the name Christine. Her father was in the restaurant business which began with a kind of “soda pop” shop and three restaurants later, developed into a full-fledged restaurant in downtown Rocky Mount. Christine spent much of her early life working in that restaurant and, it seems, that work was truly formative for her.

Though Christine did have IHMs for grade six and she socialized with them. She believed that her vocation was to get married and have lots of children. She went on to a college run by Mercy Sisters who approached her, told her they thought she had a vocation and convinced her to meet with the head of their congregation. Christine left that meeting convinced they were wrong and soon returned home hoping to meet that “special someone.”

As the years went by, that never happened, so she approached the local IHMs and asked if she could join them for prayer to determine if she had a vocation to religious life. She clearly remembers that it was in March—“right around now” (that is, March 25th, the Annunciation and her personal Feast Day as “Angela Mary”)—that she finally came to the conclusion that she did, indeed, have a vocation to the Scranton IHMs.

Christine was 25 when she entered and, given her age, she was sent out immediately to teach high school students! That experience, gratefully, lasted only a few frightening months and, through the intercession of one of the professed sisters, Sister Angela Mary returned to the Motherhouse to be in formation as a postulant. As a professed sister, she did become a teacher but after years of teaching she decided to ask the congregation if she could take a sabbatical.

However, life intervened and she got a call from a local priest asking if she would be willing to help open and run a soup kitchen. She describes this time as her favorite ministry mainly, she believes, because it not only brought back so many happy memories of working in her family’s restaurant business but because she also felt well-prepared to do this work because of that experience. Before the soup kitchen opened each day, the staff gathered to pray. It was then that she discovered the way Protestants prayed—from the heart—whereas Catholics used formulaic prayers. That experience strongly influenced her future approach to prayer.

Angela next received an invitation to serve as a parish minister in a nearby parish. The IHM congregation, however, denied that request believing the parish was “too affluent.” Instead, they asked her to come to serve in Scranton at St. Joseph’s Center. Initially, she performed secretarial tasks but, over the fifteen years she was there, she took the initiative to determine where she could be of most service.

After completing her service at St. Joseph’s Center, Angela came to live at OLP and she “loves it here.” She pointed to her living space, as well as the activities and the freedom here among the items on her gratitude list. Currently, at the request of Jane O’Neill, Director of IHM Associate Relationship, Angela is serving as the “Wisdom Figure” in Jane’s own Circle of Grace; she provides insights about the time before she entered as well as her knowledge of the IHM presence and history in the South.

When asked how she’d like to be remembered, Angela said “I hope they remember me as always smiling!” Of that, I have no doubt!


Sister Eleanor Desaulniers, IHM - "I Have Chosen You" by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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As I interviewed Sister Eleanor for this profile, I realized her ministry experiences make her a time capsule of the entire history of the Scranton IHMs! Born in Williamsport, PA, the year after the canonization of the Little Flower, she was baptized Eleanor Therese. By the age of five, Eleanor’s family and her entire grade school (at the direction of Sister Brigida) were calling on the intercession of St. Thérèse because Eleanor had contracted polio. She describes a particular day as her “miracle!” On that day her mother opened their front door and discovered a box of red roses! Sometime after that day, Eleanor’s father picked up his paralyzed child and placed her on the floor and she was able to stand and began to walk! It was later discovered that the florist’s driver was unable to deliver his roses; he saw the sign: “Infantile Paralysis” and decided to leave the roses as a gift. Coincidence?

At 18, in the middle of WWII, Eleanor entered the IHMs. Sister St. Joseph, who taught her commercial subjects, prepared her for entrance. However, Eleanor does not credit Sister St. Joseph for her vocation. Rather, she came to realize in her novitiate (she was a member of the Centennial Band!) that the line from scripture: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” was true for her.

Eleanor’s ministries took her from the East to the West Coast and by the early ‘70s she returned to what she calls her “favorite ministry” – Adams Avenue! It started at Marywood College as the Dean of Students but soon Eleanor was called to congregational leadership via a special election to replace Sister Jane Kehoe, the Western Sector Superior, who died of cancer while in office. At the next election, Eleanor became first assistant to the IHM president, Sister Anne Fulwiler, and, four years later, Eleanor became the congregation’s treasurer. At a conference for treasurers, she was inspired by the words of Sister Joan Chittister: “Your job is not about money but about ministry.” Her next Adams Avenue address was St. Joseph’s Center where she continued being in charge of a business office. Eleanor’s last active ministry was as the congregation’s archivist. If you’re keeping track, Eleanor not only maintained the files of the IHM past, but she also lived through, at an administrative level, all of the major leadership and government changes in the congregation’s post-Vatican II history.

She is quick to note, however, that many of those experiences helped her to realize that one of the congregation’s greatest achievements has been to be humble enough to seek out lay support and advice to help us make many of our major decisions.

At OLP Eleanor is grateful for many things, most of all, the name of the building—Our Lady of Peace. Her list also includes the building’s closed circuit TV because it has allowed her to continue to participate in congregation meetings and prayer services as well as to attend Mass when she’s not able to travel to the chapel. Household 3B is a group of sisters who actively work at making community and Eleanor considers the OLP staff an important part of that community. Her prayer now is “Thy Will Be Done” and Psalm 46’s “Be still and know that I am God.”

Knowing I was in the presence of a true congregation wisdom figure, I asked Eleanor if she had any advice she wanted to pass on. She responded: “I go to as many meetings as I can and I raise my hand and tell them what I think.” Amen!


Sister Jean Toolan, IHM"A Caring Woman" by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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  Sister Jean and her family

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 L-R: Sisters Terry O'Rourke and Jean Toolan

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Sister Jean Toolan (aka Sister Dermot) was born in Carbondale in 1922 (she is now 96). She had an older brother, Walter, and two younger siblings, Lois and Charlie. Jean’s father worked for the railroad in Wilkes-Barre so her mother moved the family there. When Jean was eight, her mother developed pneumonia. One evening Jean left her room and heard her mother—realizing she was dying—cry out, “Who will care for my children?” That virtue, the virtue of caring, came to shape the rest of Jean’s life. Now a single parent working for the railroad, Jean’s father was told to do something common in those days—send his children to the orphanage! Luckily, he resisted and moved his family back to Carbondale where Jean and her siblings were raised primarily by relatives, especially by her uncle, Father Toolan.

Jean credits her eleventh grade teacher as being the IHM who most influenced her vocation but, she added, in those days women could be teachers, nurses and (if Catholic) nuns! She recalls sisters being lined up on the back porch of the Motherhouse and being interviewed by Sister St. Mary who then decided Jean should be a teacher. Jean began teaching third grade and ended teaching English in high school (“…the hardest subject of all with all those papers to correct!”). Jean was mentored by the sisters at home. She had a routine of teaching, coming home to cook and clean and then, on weekends, traveling to Marywood to complete her degree. Eventually, Jean joined the many sisters who spent summers at Notre Dame completing their Master’s degrees. Though an avid Penn State football fan, her heart belongs with her alma mater—Notre Dame! Jean, herself, played baseball—she was a pitcher!

Jean ended her teaching career as the assistant superintendent for elementary education for the Scranton Diocese. She worked with Sister Terry O’Rourke, who supervised secondary education, and Msgr. John Jordan, superintendent. Terry first knew Jean as her freshman English teacher in Kingston. Terry describes Jean as, “a woman of prayer; a broad and courageous thinker with impeccable integrity; a natural leader, a master teacher and a lifelong learner.”

Jean left education to become the administrator of the IHM Center and later moved on to be a receptionist at St. Joseph’s Center which she describes as her favorite ministry. Though Jean came to OLP to heal from an injury, she stayed because she said, "it was time." She was 90 and had recently given up driving! Jean loves being at OLP because she has much more time for prayer. She says at least three rosaries a day and appreciates the way her prayer life has been expanded by the intentions Sister Eleanor Mary mentions prior to daily liturgy. Most of all, she enjoys just having time to sit and be quiet.

Jean lives next to me at OLP so I also have the opportunity to observe her interactions with her family. They have truly answered Jean’s mother’s prayer—they care for her a lot. Her nephew, Jeff, visits every Sunday and often they just sit there and read the Sunday paper together. Her niece, Deb, who lives in Florida, visits often, calls daily and, because Jean has difficulty hearing, purchased a special phone for the hearing impaired. Her niece regularly sends her large print books so Jean can continue to enjoy her love of reading.

In short, Jean has spent her life as her mother did—as a Caring woman—and, in turn, she has so many friends and family who truly care about her.


Sister Celeste Parry, IHM – “Kind and Generous” by Sister Patt Walsh, IHM

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Sisters Celeste Parry and Ellen Maroney

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I met Sister Celeste Parry in her room at OLP and asked her many of the questions I had listed in what I plan on making a consistent list to ask each sister profiled monthly. Keep in mind that Celeste is now 91. Celeste was born in Pittston and is the third of four children. The oldest was a brother, next was her older and somewhat maternal sister, Marion, whom many of us knew as Sister Jeannine. Sister Celeste described herself as shy and retiring. Given the name Joan at birth, she did have some IHM influence in her early years, before her family moved to New Jersey. So, when asked, Celeste indicated that she couldn’t recall any IHM who had influenced her vocation.

That may seem odd because Celeste’s oldest sister did enter the IHMs before her. Joan suggested that one of the biggest influences was really visiting days at the motherhouse when she got to experience life in the novitiate. However, her clearest memory (and recall we are talking about almost 70 years in her past!) was when her sister’s pastor from Bellefonte happened to be visiting in New Jersey and invited the Parry family to spend the weekend in Bellefonte with Jeannine and the other IHMs living in that convent. Somehow being with the sisters that weekend seems to have been the primary experience that brought Joan to IHM. It was less than six months after her return home that she made arrangements to enter the congregation.

All of Celeste’s professional life was spent teaching in either first or second grade. Even though she received her diploma in 1954, she was actually out teaching in 1951! It’s hard to imagine having 60 students in the morning and a different 60 students in the afternoon which was the reality in her first classroom in Carbondale. Later in Forest Hills, where she wasn’t even able to move around a classroom, she taught 80 students each session. In those days not only did families have large numbers of children but also a Catholic education was rather inexpensive.

Sister Celeste is a game player with a definite affection for bingo and Uno, and continues playing those games here at OLP. She often amused others by dancing for the sisters! Celeste can only dance with one foot! Her demonstration of that skill is pretty amusing even

Sister Celeste did not hesitate to come to OLP because she and Jeannine had visited both the Marian Convent and OLP frequently and Jeannine had come to live there first. Celeste has truly embraced being a prayer minister. She’s a frequent lector and Eucharistic minister. But her most inspiring service is the many hours she spends daily visiting the sisters who are sick, or recuperating, or cognitively impaired. To anyone who hesitates coming to OLP, Celeste would say, “It’s just a different kind of service!” now.

When I concluded our interview, I asked Celeste how she would like to be remembered. She quickly responded, “I would like to be remembered as being kind and generous to everyone.” From what I have observed in my years here, no truer words could be spoken of Sister Celeste Parry!



Sister Amy Zychal, IHM

Sr Amy Zychal
Teacher, principal, development director, case worker, Congregational Leadership, medical patient, administrative assistant if you’re counting, this is my seventh career! You might think I’m wishy-washy, but in reality, except for teaching, all changes were made in response to a need. My education, life experiences, family background and sense of humor have allowed me to be flexible and available to accept new and unexpected challenges. I have been richly blessed.

After a major health incident and recovery in 2014, I realized by late summer that I needed to be able to serve in some capacity. The school scene was not an option. At the same time, a wonderful IHM woman, Sister Dolores Filicko, who had served as Administrative Assistant for FOP was thinking about retiring. My learning curve for this ministry was a steep one! I am not by nature a “techie” and had much to learn. Sister Dolores was the perfect tutor.

Now starting my seventh month in this ministry, I have gained many new skills and thoroughly enjoy the adventure! And adventure is the right word... on paper. I answer the telephone at the Friends of the Poor administrative office at the IHM Center; compose, type, mail “Thank you” letters for Sister Ann Walsh; manage the database; communicate with donors and potential donors, and FOP Board members about important issues. Off paper, every day is an adventure because I could never list all the “and whatever else comes up” includes. Friends of the Poor is a whirlwind of activity, it is never dull, and ultimately, those most in need are helped. I fully embrace the mission of Friends of the Poor to ease the burden of poverty and enhance the quality of life for all who live in low to moderate income communities.

I love what I do – the people, the people, the people – that I work with and serve.


Sister Judith Ann Ziegler, IHM

Sr Judu Ziegler

For the past ten years it has been the smile and voice of Sister Judy Ziegler that has greeted guests and vendors alike at the IHM Business Office at the IHM Center. Sister Judy is not only responsible each day for directing dozens of visitors and callers to the proper business office staff members but also for countless “behind the scenes” jobs such as digitizing accounts payable and accounts receivable documents. She also logs into the computer all the “monthly house accounts” of IHM local communities. In addition, she “logs them out,” packs, and mails the budget reports for the local communities each month. She is detail-oriented and an expert in organization of the filing of documents and invoices.

Sister Judy finds her work in the business office both enjoyable and fascinating. She’s happy to have a position of service to the sisters and one that contributes to the life of the congregation.

The part of Sister Judy’s job that she likes best? Her co-workers. She said, “We support each other and help each other. They are kind, thoughtful, and caring.”

In addition to her work in the business office, Sister Judy volunteers every Saturday at Heartworks. She has been with Heartworks since its beginning days at the Marian Convent. At the end of the business day at Heartworks, she closes out the cash register, and creates the financial report.

Sister Judy is a Baltimore native who came to know the IHM Sisters when she attended St. Agnes School where she was taught by Sister Jane Meehan in first grade and Sister Jeanne Albrittain in sixth grade. She entered the IHM Congregation in 1972 and celebrated her silver jubilee in 2000. Her mother and father are age ninety and have been married for sixty-four years. They reside at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Baltimore. Sister Judy enjoys frequent visits to Baltimore to visit her parents and her sister, Mary Jo.


Sister Mary Rassley, IHM

Sr Mary Rassley

Fifteen years ago, Sister Mary Rassley began her ministry at the Marian Convent as coordinator of transportation. She spent each day arranging the transportation to doctor and hospital visits for more than a hundred residents at the Marian Convent and later at Our Lady of Peace Residence. She worked with the nursing staff to coordinate appointments with sisters, companions, drivers, and cars. When she turned eighty years old she left this position and embarked on a few new adventures. Among them is teaching art appreciation to small groups of OLP residents. She also volunteers two days a week and on holidays at Hospice of the Sacred Heart in-patient in Dunmore. She volunteers at Heartworks where she heads up the “E-bay Division” of Heartworks and she monitors and maintains the website. She posts, sells, packages, and mails sold items. Among the items sold are collectables, vintage items, out-of-print prayer and song books, and items that have been donated to Heartworks. Many have asked Sister Mary to sell their items on E-bay. She responds that she does this service only for Heartworks!

At Our Lady of Peace Residence Sister Mary sorts the mail and sees that it is distributed to the sisters and offices. When she leaves her work site, she goes to South Scranton where for a night each week she teaches ESL at the former Nativity Convent. When she’s not teaching ESL, she’s at the Marywood gym working out. In her free time Sister Mary enjoys reading— mostly non-fiction and history books.

She is quick to say that she enjoys everything she does and that she feels it is a privilege that the congregation “lets me do it."

Pictured above is Sister Mary Rassley and the late Sister Greta Collins


Sister Judy O’Brien, IHM

Sr Judy O'Brien

I have been in Boston for twelve years now. (I can hardly believe it!) Crissy is going to be twenty-four and Ely turns twenty-two next week. They are both out of school and working. Crissy is living in New York City and Ely is still home with me. As part of the Administrative Team at Cathedral High School, I oversee the instructional practices of the faculty, mentor new teachers, participate in long-term planning and coach students for success. This year I am also teaching a Freshman Religion course which I am loving. My students are really interested in religious life and ask questions daily. Most of my free time is spent with my Mom who is eighty-eight years young this year and with my family. Life for me is filled with wonderful surprises and lots of love.