In Memory

Sister Josephine Cioffi, IHM

August 6, 1940 – May 20, 2023

Sister Josephine Cioffi, IHM, (formerly known as Sister M. Lucia) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Saturday, May 20, 2023, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on August 6, 1940, in New York, NY, and given the name Josephine Theresa. She was the daughter of the late John and Luisa Cioffi Cioffi. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1958, and made her temporary profession of vows on March 11, 1961, and her final profession of vows on March 11, 1966. Sister Josephine received a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from Marywood College, a Master of Science degree in mathematics from Catholic University of America, and a Certificate of Advanced Educational Studies in administration and supervision from Boston College.

Sister Josephine served as a teacher at the following schools: Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary School in Inwood, NY, from 1961 to 1963; St. John the Baptist Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1963 to 1965; St. Raymond Elementary School in East Rockaway, NY, from 1965 to 1967; St. Mary of Mount Carmel Elementary School in Dunmore, PA, from 1967 to 1968; Nativity of Our Lord Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1968 to 1973; St. Paul Elementary School in Cranston, RI, from 1973 to 1974; and Notre Dame Elementary School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1978 to 1979.

Sister served as principal at the following schools: St. Paul Elementary School in Cranston, RI, from 1974 to 1978; Most Holy Rosary Elementary School in Syracuse, NY, from 1979 to 1982; St. Patrick Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1982 to 1984; and at St. Ann Elementary School in New York, NY, from 1984 to 2014. Sister Josephine was the first principal of the newly formed NativityMiguel School of Scranton, a co-sponsored ministry of the IHM Congregation, from 2015 to 2017.

Sister Josephine also served as an instructor for the afterschool program at Mt. Carmel/Holy Rosary School in New York, NY, from 2014 to 2015; coordinator of inner-city school scholarships for the Development Office of the Archdiocese of New York from 2014 to 2015; and as an instructor at the Educational Enrichment Institute at the IHM Center in Scranton from 2017 to 2019.

From 2019 until the time of her death, Sister Josephine was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She is preceded in death by a sister, Frances Stein. She is survived by a sister, Jeanette Caruso of Cincinnati, OH, nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. She is also survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Tuesday, May 30 at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Peace Residence, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Friends may call at Our Lady of Peace Residence on Tuesday, May 30, between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. A prayer service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Interment will follow Mass on Tuesday at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, PA.

Prayer of Remembrance and Funeral Mass 


Reflection given by Sister Judy O’Brien, IHM Leadership Team Member

One of the blessings of serving on our leadership Team and being here in Scranton is reconnecting with the Sisters who have been an important part of my Congregation life. One of those Sisters is our Sister Josephine Cioffi. There are many of you who could be up here, having this privilege to reflect on the celebration of Jo’s life. I am so humbled that it is me.

Welcome to all, those here in the flesh, nephew Ben and niece Gina and those here on live-stream. Jo’s love for her family knew no bounds. Her relationships and devotion to her parents and sisters, Jeanette and Fran, and their children, were always at the center of her life. Thank you to Father Gavitt for celebrating with us today as we remember our Sister Jo.

While sitting in my backyard last Saturday, it was Mother’s Day weekend, I observed a mother cardinal teaching her 5 babies to fly. She had them lined up on the edge of a garage roof, systematically showing them how to fly from one side of the roof to the other. The roof was always under them so as to remove the fear of falling into mid-air I suspect. A mother teaching her young to survive life’s journey. My mind shifted to thinking about what I would say about Jo today. The concept of teaching, just as the mother cardinal was doing, became an immediate and appropriate metaphor for my words today.

Of all of the sisters that I have been blessed to live with over the years, Sister Josephine Cioffi was the most committed and passionate educator, I have known. Her dedication to the ministry of education was palpable. She lived to educate. Every child, every faculty member and every staff person were her students. She taught them to fly and protected them from the fall into mid-air whenever she could. Her desire for each of them to succeed in life was incredible, and she worked tirelessly at teaching them how to be their best. She was the teacher, and the leader par excel lance.

I lived in community at St. Ann’s in Harlem with Jo in the ‘90s. It was the neighborhood that she had grown up in and where she loved having the opportunity to return to and lead. The neighborhood had transitioned from a predominantly flourishing Italian neighborhood to a depressed and dangerous section of New York city. No matter to Jo, it was home to her, and she embraced the new ethnically diverse populations as her own. From early morning to late at night Jo was in school pounding away at the dauntless responsibilities that were hers, and she loved it.

Because of Jo, our community of sisters, during those years, fell in love with the neighborhood as well. Most of us would arrive home to the convent at around 8:00 pm, exhausted and weary. It was then that we would pray and share our daily lives. We would watch the news together, Jo sipping on a glass of red wine, discuss social issues of the time, and we would laugh, every day we would laugh. Jo had an infectious sense of humor, very dry and very poignant and it brought out the humor and laughter in all of us. Jo’s ministry in that school and parish afforded all of us the blessing of calling Harlem, NY home.

Sister Josephine also taught us the value of rest. Every Sunday she honored the Sabbath with Prayer, Eucharist and spending quality time with family and friends. It was not unusual for Jo and a friend to walk to Little Italy, about a four- mile hike, on a Sunday afternoon, to eat a meal, share conversation, and then to walk home.

Eventually, after many, many years, the Congregation and the Nativity Miguel School would beckon her to return to Scranton to pioneer a new school, a new model of education. She did this wholeheartedly and with the same passion she had for her native Harlem home and school. Nativity Miguel school thrives today because of the love for education that Sister Josephine Cioffi passed on. She would be so proud of that school and those students today.

These last few years, Jo has embraced a different manner of teaching and education, it is called, The School of Letting Go. This school was perhaps Josephine’s hardest assignment of all. With the incredible attention given her by the amazing care-sharing staff here at Our Lady of Peace, Jo’s end of life journey was slow and difficult but she was never alone on that path. Her students this time were all of us, family, friends, sisters and care-givers. What has she taught us? Well for me it has been the lesson of gracious departing. Saying good-bye to a lifetime of love and ministry and laughter. Suffering silently and giving over all that she has been to the Master Teacher, our God. Just as in Harlem, Josephine has taught us to come home.

Thank you, Jo, for all you have taught, for all you have imparted. Fly now Sister, just as that mother cardinal taught her young ones. Fly to your new school, a school that we can only dream of, a perfect school of peace, love and forever Sabbath.


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