In Memory

Sister Eleanor Desaulniers, IHM

January 23, 1926 – January 12, 2021

Sister Eleanor Desaulniers, IHM, (formerly known as Sister M. Teresine) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, at Regional Hospital of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

She was born on January 23, 1926, in Williamsport, PA, and given the name Eleanor Therese. She was the daughter of the late Eugene W. and Marie Dolan Desaulniers. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1944, made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1947, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1950.

Sister Eleanor served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Paul Elementary School in Cranston, RI, in 1947; St. Alphonsus Commercial High School in New York, NY, from 1947 to 1948; St. Mary Elementary School in Manhasset, NY, from 1948 to 1951; St. Basil High School in Dushore, PA, from 1951 to 1957; and IHM Academy in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1957 to 1962.

Sister served as principal at the following schools: Immaculate Conception High School in Lock Haven, PA, from 1962 to 1967; and St. Alphonsus Commercial High School in New York, NY, from 1967 to 1970.

Sister Eleanor also served the IHM Congregation in Scranton, PA, as a member of the leadership team from 1972 to 1974; as assistant to the superior general, from 1974 to 1978; as director of temporal affairs, from 1978 to 1986; as congregation archivist, from 1996 to 2008; as assistant archivist and consultant, from 2008 to 2010; and as administrative assistant to the leadership team, from 2010 to 2014.

She also served on the faculty at Marywood College in Scranton, PA, from 1970 to 1972; and as administrative assistant at St. Joseph’s Center in Scranton, PA, from 1986 to 1996.

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

She received a Bachelor of Art degree in business administration/English from Marywood College and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Notre Dame.

She is preceded in death by two brothers, Charles L. and Eugene W.; and a sister, Ruth Fischer.

She is survived by two sisters, Sister M. Patricia, M.M., of Maryknoll, NY; Marguerite Smith of Winston-Salem, NC; nieces and nephews; and grandnieces and grandnephews. 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.

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, Spring 2021 issue

Sister Eleanor Desaulniers, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on Monday, January 18, 2021:

She stands in beauty
like a tree deep rooted
so no catastrophe
can wipe her memory
from the land,
nor fell her when she takes a stand,
so is she who stands with God.

Miriam Therese Winter, MMS

These words, from the psalm entitled, “Woman Witness,” by Sister Miriam Therese Winter, MMS, depict so beautifully for me the image of this wonderful woman in whose honor we gather today. Eleanor was a lover of beauty in nature, in all of life. Her own inner beauty and strength of character stemmed from her unshakable, deep rooted love of and trust in God. This gentle, gracious woman was fearless and resolute when standing up for a principle or confronting injustice, hypocrisy, or intolerance on the part of others. Her life was a journey of integrity, humility, generous giving, and sacred meaning – she who stood with God while among us surely stands with God today.

Eleanor was born and raised in Williamsport, PA and she never forgot the lessons of her upbringing. Her respect for the dignity of others, a hallmark of her life, and her commitment to giving 100% to whatever she did were values fostered by a family who loved and nurtured her and who instilled in her a deep faith which was expressed through love of God and others. Her love for her family was deep and unconditional, and that connection remained constant throughout her life. It was the family values and deep faith instilled at an early age that nurtured a vocation call that Eleanor would not refuse.

As an IHM, Eleanor ministered as a teacher and principal at schools in Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and Idaho and also as a faculty member at Marywood College. She was an excellent teacher and administrator, well organized and blessed with a caring and listening heart that moved students to trust and open up to her. Former students remarked that while Eleanor set high standards for them, these standards were rooted in promoting the dignity and value of each individual and called them to be better and do better. With her wit and wisdom, rolling eyes, ready smile, and gentle laugh, one former student wrote that, “Sister Eleanor taught, challenged, yes, scolded at times, and mentored them into better, more caring persons.”

Those same qualities were characteristic of Eleanor’s forty plus years in IHM Congregation ministry as sector superior, assistant superior general, director of temporal affairs, archivist, and administrative assistant to the congregation leadership team. She also served as administrative assistant at St. Joseph’s Center for several years. So many “Eleanor” stories have been shared that illustrate her numerous gifts and talents, especially her qualities of honesty, fairness, integrity, humility, generosity, intelligence, and, yes, her high standards set for herself and for others. She had a wonderful wit and could easily laugh at herself, even over her bit of compulsion with neatness and organization. Margaret Gannon told me that one day, as they sat in Eleanor’s immaculate, well-ordered room, Eleanor remarked that in her next life she wanted to come back as a slob! (I can’t even imagine that image, can you?).

Eleanor was one of those people who left an indelible mark on those she met. Her welcoming smile, honest humility, keen mind, and deep authenticity made others want to stay in her presence even if they disagreed with her on an issue. She never demeaned or shunned others for their remarks or actions, but would invite discussion and respectful understanding. One comment most frequently heard about Eleanor was that she was always a lady, the epitome of graciousness, goodness, and IHM hospitality. She understood deeply that love of God and love of others is what truly matters, and her life taught all of us that profound truth. She made us better as individuals and as a congregation simply by who she was, though certainly also by all she did. We have remembered, laughed and cried and realized again how very blessed and lucky we are to have known and counted this special woman as our friend and sister and aunt.

Today as we gather at this Eucharistic table, we ponder the mystery of a divine love that called Eleanor home with a suddenness that caught us off guard. Our faith which calls us here assures us that God called her home to the fullness of a divine love which surpasses any joy we can ever imagine. We remember today very specially her parents, Marie and Eugene. What a wonderful reunion they, along with her sister, Ruth, and brothers, Charles and Eugene, and many of her sister friends, surely enjoyed last Tuesday! Of course, we know Eleanor never wanted a fuss made about her, so I’m sure after paying her respects to God and enjoying her reunion with family for a bit, she quietly found her way to heaven’s Archive Department and went
right to work helping Anitra organize the files of the newcomers.

We pray for all whose lives were touched by Eleanor’s goodness and integrity, especially her sisters, Marguerite and Sister Patricia, H.T. and Anne Marie, and all her nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, her IHM sisters, especially those in Household 3B, Loretta, Redempta, and Sandy, and so many of us who shared life and ministry with Eleanor.

Joan Chittister in her book, Radical Spirit, writes that the true gift of an authentic life lies in keeping one’s own integrity while also tending toward simplicity in one’s individual life. She states that this sense of “enoughness” keeps a person grounded and enables her to avoid any pretense of self-importance, power, or success which can lead to a loss of true self. Joan recounts Jesus’ words when he called the apostle Nathaniel to follow him: “an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” (John 1: 47). I think God welcomed Eleanor home last week with those same words. She was for us an authentic disciple who never professed to be anything that she was not. She was simple, direct, clear, and honest. She was what we all hope to be.

So as we begin this celebration of thanksgiving for Eleanor’s life, I now ask H.T. to place Eleanor’s bible on her casket, for indeed, she heard the Word of God, she staked her life upon it, and received life to the full… the Word now beckons Eleanor home.

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