In Memory

Mother Mary Crescentia Foster, IHM

September 5, 1859 – April 11, 1916

Mother Mary Crescentia Foster, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on April 11, 1916 at St. Alphonsus Convent in New York, New York.

She was born on September 5, 1859 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and given the name Mary. She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, William and Ann Nolan Foster. She entered the IHM Congregation at St. Cecilia Novitiate in Scranton, PA, on February 6, 1877, received the religious habit on November 21, 1877, and made profession of her vows on December 31, 1879.

Sister Mary Crescentia served as a teacher at our IHM mission schools, including St. Cecilia Academy and Holy Rosary School, both in Scranton, PA, where she also served as superior. She then served sister-assistant to Mother Mary Magdalen Jackson.

Mother Mary Crescentia was appointed to the role Superior General of the Congregation by Bishop Michael Hoban to complete the unexpired term of Mother Mary Magdalen Jackson in 1899, and served until 1901.

During her time as the reverend mother, she continued the plans of Mother Mary for building new Motherhouse at Mount Saint Mary’s, and conducted the groundbreaking on July 19, 1901. But the building not completed until 1903, after her term. In 1908, she was appointed directress of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Scranton, PA.

In 1913, Sister Mary Crescentia was appointed the first superior and principal of St. Alphonsus School in New York, NY, where she served until the time of her death from pneumonia.

The funeral with Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Mount Saint Mary’s in Scranton. Interment will follow at Marywood Cemetery, on the grounds of Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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

“After the death of Mother Mary, Sister M. Crescentia was appointed by Right Reverend Bishop Hoban to fill out Mother Mary’s unexpired term. Mother Crescentia at once addressed herself to the carrying out of plans for a new mother house according to the intention of Mother Mary, who had initiated the work and secured the site on Seminary Heights. Plans were drawn and the ground broken for the new building, July 19, 1900. On November 3rd of the same year, the corner-stone was blessed and laid by the Right Reverend Bishop.

Thus towards the end of the year 1901, the community governed by Mother M. Crescentia, who finished Mother Mary’s term of office, was securely established on a firm basis. Fervor and zeal were on the increase, the fruition of the early years was becoming more abundant. Christian education was within the reach of nearly every child in the Scranton Diocese, and the first step had been taken to extend the work of the Immaculate Heart to the furthest coast of the United States.

Mother M. Crescentia, brought to a happy culmination the blessed exuberance inaugurated at Saint Cecilia’s by Mother Mary, and left the labor
of the establishment of the new mother house, the building of which was begun by Mother M. Crescentia, to the newly elected superior, Mother M. Cyril, who succeeded Mother Mary in 1901.”

Excerpted from The Sisters of the I.H.M.: The Story of The Founding of The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Their Work In The Scranton Diocese by Sister M. Immaculata Gillespie, IHM, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, NY, 1921, pgs. 274, 277

“Shortly before noon of April 11th, word came to Mount Saint Mary’s that Mother M. Crescentia was dying. Sister M. Pius and Sister M. Celestine, both life-long friends of Mother M. Crescentia, left on the afternoon train for New York. When they arrived Mother M. Crescentia was unconscious. At eight o’clock that evening she yielded up her soul to the Creator whom she had served since the days of her youth. Her funeral was held from the Chapel of Mount Saint Mary’s. In his funeral sermon the Right Reverend Bishop highly eulogized Mother M. Crescentia for her beautiful spirit of modesty and simplicity. “This morning we are gathered around the bier of one of the most modest women that I have ever met. She was plain and simple in many ways. She was an earnest Sister, anxious to do her duty as she saw it. I do not believe she was swayed by the slightest ambition. Her work at Saint Cecilia’s proved that she had God alone in view in all she did. After the second election of Mother Mary, to whom this order owes so much, and whose memory shall never die. Mother M. Crescentia was chosen assistant. Mother Mary devoted a great deal of her time to the preparation of the plans of this beautiful building. When Mother Mary died and Mother M. Crescentia succeeded her as superior, her only ambition was to carry out Mother Mary’s plans. It was she who helped to select this site, and it was she who had the courage to begin the building of this new home. It was not in the designs of God that she should finish it. Later when the election took place she gave up her charge without the least regret. She may have thought it would be an honor to complete the work she had begun. But all the Sisters had been working for this end, and no matter who was elected the work would go on.

“Now her body has been brought to the home which she helped to build and the site which she had helped to select. She is to be buried in the grounds that were bought long ago to be the home of the community. Her whole life in religion, some forty years, has been spent in the service of God’s little ones. Mother M. Crescentia gave her whole life to Jesus Christ absolutely and entirely. May we not hope that God will be faithful to His promise and crown her with an everlasting reward?”

Mother M. Crescentia was born in Scranton on September 5, 1859. Soon after her birth, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Foster, moved to Pittston, where Mother M. Crescentia was educated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She entered the novitiate of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on February 6, 1877, received the habit on November 25 of the same year, and two years later she made her holy vows. She was superior of Saint Cecilia’s Academy and Holy Rosary Convent for many years. In 1908 she was appointed directress of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. She was appointed the first superior of Saint Alphonsus School, New York, in 1913. During her long years of faithful service in religion. Mother Crescentia gave her best energies to the training of young hearts and minds in accordance with the noble standards she had set up for manhood and womanhood, and her untiring zeal in this respect was rewarded with remarkable success. To her Sisters in religion she was a living exemplar of the strict observance of the Holy Rule. The memory of her exceptionally worthy and beautiful life will continue to guide those who were fortunate enough to come under her strong and kindly influence. The refining process of labor and suffering and the chastening of affliction brought their richest accompaniments to the period of Mother Germaine’s leadership. Truly could we say with Thomas a Kempis, in looking upon the fair fruits of her labors and trials, “In the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness.”

Excerpted from The Sisters of the I.H.M.: The Story of The Founding of The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Their Work In The Scranton Diocese by Sister M. Immaculata Gillespie, IHM, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, NY, 1921, p. 457- 459

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