In Memory

Sister Claire Marie Kulp, IHM

August 6, 1949 – August 28, 2020

Sister Claire Marie Kulp, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Friday, August 28, 2020 at Sacred Heart Hospice in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

She was born on August 6, 1949, in Philadelphia, PA, and was the daughter of the late Leo James and Claire Nichodemus Kulp. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 1, 1978, made temporary profession of her vows on January 17, 1981, and final profession of her vows on August 4, 1984.

Sister Claire Marie served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, NY, from 1981 to 1984; Seton Catholic High School in Pittston, PA, from 1984 to 2007; and Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, PA, from 2007 to 2014. She was an instructor in the Educational Enrichment Institute at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2014 to 2019.

Sister also served as receptionist at the Catherine McAuley Center in Scranton, PA, from 2015 to 2019.

From 2019 until the time of her death, Sister Claire Marie served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in social sciences from Marywood College, a Master of Arts degree in social sciences from State University of New York at Albany, NY, and a Master of Arts degree in educational technology from Wilkes University.

She is preceded in death by a brother, Leo J., Jr.

She is survived by two brothers, Stephen of Florida, and William of Levittown, PA, two sisters, Maryanne Greenfield of Lawton, OK, and Margaret Kulp of Holland, PA, and nieces and nephews. She is also survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

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

A Month’s Mind memorial mass for Sister Claire Marie will be held on Monday, September 28th at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish, 535 North Main Street, Pittston, PA, with the Rev. Joseph Pisaneschi presiding.

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:

Reprinted from “In Memoriam” section of Journey, Fall 2020 issue

Sister Claire Marie Kulp, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on Wednesday, September 2, 2020:

The thing that we all have to face is that life is
as simple as this: We are living in a world that
is absolutely transparent and God is shining
through it all the time. This is not just a fable or
a nice story, it is true.
– Thomas Merton

In thinking about Claire since last Friday, so many adjectives and attributes and wonderful stories came readily to my mind. But when I read these simple yet starkly profound words of Thomas Merton, I thought, “That’s Claire!” – nothing fancy, plain, simple, and straightforward. Those words state the fundamental truth which she believed and trusted and by which she lived her entire life. For sure, Claire faced difficulties and challenges, especially regarding her health, but her unwavering faith in God’s presence and goodness in her life was the foundation of her incredible strength and perseverance and her indomitable spirit. That faith, that spirit, was her gift to all she met.

We knew Claire as sister, teacher, mentor, counselor, activist for justice, in the truest sense of that word, and friend. To be fair, Claire was also a character. She refused to be defined or limited by expectations or conditions of who or what she should be or do, whether it be as a woman or a woman religious or most recently as a semi-retired IHM. She was passionate about justice issues and was never afraid to witness that passion. She was joyous and fun and honest, and even when she went “outside the lines” a bit, we loved her for her sincerity. She had an uncanny ability to brighten a conversation or a classroom the moment she entered one, usually with her extraordinary wit wrapped in one of her famous sayings. She was also known to enjoy a good debate now and then and she was a master at keeping it going by interjecting at key moments her famous question, “And why
do you think that’s true?” especially if she could add a touch of “gentle” sarcasm to the conversation. People, especially her students, mattered
deeply to Claire, and she made sure they knew it. It’s that simple. Her singular gift was, I think, her authenticity. She lived and spoke the truth as often and as best she could. We never had to wonder or guess what Claire thought or what she felt, and that sense of integrity and authenticity was a genuine value of hers and a hallmark of her life.

During her forty years as an IHM, Claire witnessed each day her love and commitment to God and to serving others, primarily through the ministry of education. She taught in high schools in New York and Pennsylvania, including twenty-three years at Seton Catholic High School in Pittston, which she called her second home. After retiring from full time teaching due to medical issues, Claire volunteered as an instructor at our Educational Enrichment Institute and as a receptionist at the McAuley Center, a ministry which serves homeless women and children. Though a woman of many talents and
interests, Claire’s passion was definitely teaching. For her, teaching was more than a profession; it was a sacred mission. In the classroom, she was inspiring, challenging, funny, and profound, and the breadth of her knowledge was often amazing: one minute she could be explaining the economic causes of the American Civil War and in the next minute, quoting lines from the latest Broadway play and demonstrating how they applied to our IHM Charism and Mission Statement. She taught her students lessons of life. She got them to volunteer to help as counselors at the “Summer Splash” program for less privileged youth in Scranton and she went along as a coordinator. She brought carloads of her students from Pittston up to our IHM Evenings of Prayer each month so they could get to meet and know us – rumor has it she gave them extra credit for coming, but I’m sure that’s false!

Claire loved learning, all learning and she wholeheartedly subscribed to Thomas Jefferson’s words: “I cannot live without books.” Her bedroom would more accurately be called a library for the number of books she always had laying around to read. In her classroom Claire was uniquely able to communicate that love of learning to her students. She cared deeply about them as individuals and took time to get to know them and offer words of advice or encouragement or challenge. She changed the thinking, and indeed the lives, of so many of the students she touched with her inspired teaching, her commitment to high standards for herself and everyone else, and her exuberant love of life. On the Seton Catholic-St. John’s Facebook page there are over 100 comments from students, parents, and teachers about how Claire impacted their lives: “She brought out the best in us;” “I wasn’t a great student and don’t remember a lot of the facts of history, but I remember the connection Sister Claire made with me and my classmates;”
“Coolest teacher I ever knew;” “She pushed me to expand my worldview;” “She left a profound mark on me;” “She challenged us but loved us
no matter what.” And so many others like these. Claire was not only a great teacher, but an educator par excellence.

We remember very specially today Claire’s parents, Claire and Leo, and her brother, Leo, Jr., who now welcome her into an eternal, joyous love. We ask God to fill with hope and peace the hearts of Claire’s sisters, Mary Ann and Peggy Rose, her brothers, Willie and Stevie, her friends, former teachers and students, especially those from Seton Catholic and Holy Redeemer High Schools, her co-workers at McAuley Center, the sisters, staff, and administrators here at Our Lady of Peace Residence, all her IHM and Immaculata sisters, and all who were the recipients of her great-hearted love.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “To believe in something and not to live it is dishonest.” Claire’s honest presence among us challenged and encouraged us, stretched and comforted us. Her compassion for others softened our hearts. When asked once what she hoped people would say about her after she died, she replied, “I hope they remember me as funny,” a humble request. Claire, we remember you as funny and fun and so much more. You were a character, for sure, but your character taught us so much about life and love and God. We are forever grateful that you were in our lives.

Sister Kate will now place the scriptures on Claire’s casket, for indeed Claire heard the Word of God, she staked her life upon it and received life to the full… the Word now beckons Claire home.

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