In Memory

Sister Ave Maria Foley, IHM

February 6, 1923 – May 11, 2021

Ave Maria Foley, IHM

Sister Ave Maria Foley, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

She was born on February 6, 1923, in Newburgh, NY. She was the daughter of the late James Joseph and Anna Winifred Leahey Foley. She entered the IHM Congregation on February 2, 1941, made temporary profession of her vows on August 2, 1943, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1946.

Sister Ave Maria served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1943 to 1955; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Forest Hills, NY, from 1955 to 1956; St. Rose High School in Carbondale, PA, from 1956 to 1967; St. Mary High School in Manhasset, NY, from 1967 to 1968; and Dunmore Central Catholic High School in Dunmore, PA, from 1968 to 1971.

Sister was a faculty member in the Art Department at Marywood University in Scranton, PA, from 1956 to 1967 and 1971 to 2000. In addition to being a master teacher, Sister Ave Maria was an accomplished artist whose work can be found on the Marywood University campus and at the IHM Center.

Sister Ave Maria also served on the support services staff at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2000 to 2014; and volunteered at Holy Family Residence in Scranton, PA, from 1983 to 1988.

From 2014 until the time of her death, Sister Ave Maria was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Art degree in education from Marywood College, and a Master of Art degree in art education from New York University.

She is preceded in death by a brother, James, Jr., and a sister, Anna.

She is survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

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

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


Combined Vespers Prayer Service:

Sister Ave Maria Foley, IHM
Funeral Eulogy, May 19, 2021
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

“All earthly creatures can lift us up to God if we know
how to look at them with an eye that is single.”

St. Felix of Cantalice

All who knew Ave, or even, after meeting her for the first time, if you spent just four or five minutes in her presence, you would know without a doubt two things: one, that she was deeply devoted to God and her vocation with a singleness of heart matched by few and two, that her love for animals, all animals, was boundless. Ave knew deeply the truth of my opening quote from St. Felix. Her entire life was focused on seeking the loving God in all people and in all creation, especially her beloved animals. Today we celebrate her joyful reunion with the One who treasured her dedication and who welcomes her home into his loving and joyful embrace.

When we think about Ave, we recall the innumerable people whose lives were uplifted by her presence and inclusive nature. For over twenty-eight years she sowed the seeds of faith in young students as a teacher of art, math, and theology in schools in Pennsylvania and New York. Ave really enjoyed her students, especially her art students, and relished seeing them learn and grow each day. Her patience, kindness, joy, and quick humor encouraged their awakening creativity and opened them to a real awareness of God’s ever-constant love for them and for all creation. Ave’s reputation as an art teacher was recognized by her peers as well. She was recommended by them to address the annual diocesan teachers’ meetings in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Allentown to introduce the new Catholic Art Syllabus for the schools. A representative from the Silver Burdett Company wrote a letter to Mother Beata stating how inspiring Ave was in her presentation and credited her with making a “very generous contribution” to the success.

After teaching at Marywood, for several summers, Ave came to the college (now University) as full time art faculty member in 1971. Though short in stature, her presence there was giant. Her quick stride on walks around campus was easily recognizable, as were her cheery hellos to all as she as passed them by. Her encouragement, advice, and humorous quips to her students won her their admiration and loyalty. An accomplished artist herself, Ave’s work can still be found today on the university campus and at the IHM Center. The Stations of the Cross outside by the shrine behind this building were carved by Ave and given to the congregation in memory of her mother, Anna. A photo of the fifteenth station is on the cover of our funeral booklet today. The unique symbols on each station are explained in a booklet she compiled. Special thanks to Sister Babette Opferman and her sister assistants who repaired and repainted the stations over this past year.

After leaving Marywood in 2000, Ave served as part of the support staff at the IHM Center until 2014, when she moved here to Our Lady of Peace as a prayer minister.

We rejoice in the gift of Ave’s life with us. She won our hearts with her indomitable spirit, joyful presence, and openness of heart. Even though she was reminded countless times not to feed the squirrels, deer, etc., on campus, she would hide nuts and food in her pockets and sneak out almost daily to feed them. We loved her curiosity and freedom of spirit: on the yearly forms send out by the congregation for each sister to update their information, one question was “To what person are you directly accountable in your ministry.” Ave wrote “the Lord” for her answer. Another question was, “In what type of community do you believe you can best live – circle one (choices: small, medium, or large group). She crossed out the three options and wrote over them one word: “congenial.” Those who spent time in her presence heard many such “Ave-isms” in her conversations. They also heard a deep passion and fierce commitment to the IHM legacy as she internalized it. To be sure, Ave was not bashful about challenging us on occasions when she felt we were falling short of our ideals, even taking the floor at congregation meetings to make her points. We may have disagreed with what she said but her profound commitment and passion left us moved and grateful for her witness.

So we pray today in thanksgiving for Ave and we remember her family members who now welcome her into their loving embrace in heaven: her parents, Anna, with whom she had a special closeness, and James; her sister, Anna, and her brother, James, Jr. We pray, too, for her IHM sisters, her dear friends, all those who were mentored and taught by Ave, and of course the staff members who shared life with her here at OLP. We trust that the kindness and joy that were always a part of Ave’s life will live on in each of them.

John Grogan, writer and animal lover who authored the book, Marley & Me, wrote, Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.” Sister, lover of God and all creation, teacher, mentor, artist, animal lover, lover of all: Ave’s generous spirit and big heart touched our lives and brought joy to our world in so many profound ways. Though we are already missing her gifted life of ninety-eight years, we rejoice that she is enjoying her eternal happiness with her God and we know how lucky we were to have known her.

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

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