In Memory

Sister M. Cecilian White, IHM

November 10, 1925 – May 20, 2021

Sister M. Cecilian White, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on November 10, 1925, in Oneida, NY; and given the name Grace Marie. She was the daughter of the William and Theresa Fox White. She entered the IHM Congregation on February 2, 1944 and made her temporary profession of vows on August 2, 1946 and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1949.

Sister Cecilian served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Joseph Elementary School in Danville, PA, from 1946 to 1947; St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1947 to 1950; St. Agnes Elementary School in Washington, NC, from 1950 to 1955; St. Ambrose Elementary School in Bridgeport, CT, from 1955 to 1956; St. Mary of the Mount Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1956 to 1959; Immaculata High School in New York, NY, from 1959 to 1960; St. John High School in Pittston, PA, from 1960 to 1970; Most Holy Rosary High School in Syracuse, NY, from 1970 to 1974; St. Mary High School in Manhasset, NY, from 1974 to 1979; Sacred Heart High School in Carbondale, PA, from 1979 to 1980; and Bishop Guilfoyle High School in Altoona, PA, from 1984 to 1985.

Sister also served as a business office clerk at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 1980 to 1984; social service assistant at Mercy House in Albany, NY, from 1985 to 1986; financial secretary at LaSalle Academy in New York, NY, from 1986 to 1990; financial secretary at Cardinal McCloskey Health Services in White Plains, NY, from 1991 to 1992; financial secretary at St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Brooklyn, NY, from 1992 to 1997; office assistant in the development office at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA from 1998 to 2010; volunteer at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2010 to 2012; and volunteer at St. Joseph’s Center in Scranton, PA, from 2012 to 2013.

From 2013 until the time of her death, Sister Cecilian served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education/mathematics from Marywood College, and a Master of Arts degree in mathematics from Villanova University.

She is preceded in death by two sisters, Catherine Bowe and Mary Donahue; and a brother, William.

She is survived by nieces and nephews; 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:

Sister M. Cecilian White, IHM
Funeral Eulogy, May 27, 2021
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

Dying comes before rising.
Death arrives before new birth.

Joyce Rupp

Shortly after I heard of Cecilian’s death, I read these words of Joyce Rupp and found them especially consoling, particularly in light of our losses these past two weeks. The wonderful season of Easter and then the great feast of Pentecost last Sunday teach us anew the profound truths of Rupp’s words, that God’s love overcomes even death and remains in and with us through even the most difficult times. Those truths defined how Ceil lived each day of her life. Her quiet, humble, and welcoming spirit, which revealed her own inner peace and beauty, came from her deep inner trust and faith in a God she loved unreservedly. We knew Ceil as a kind and generous person who marched to the beat of her own drum. Her deep faith and keen intelligence sparked her life-long curiosity and yen for adventure and her love of learning, especially in the field of math as both teacher and accountant.

Ceil was a bearer of God’s love, kindness, and peace wherever she went. Born and raised in Oneida, NY, her given name was Grace. By coincidence, her dear friend and fellow Oneidan, Sister Carleen, was also named Grace, so they were called “the two Graces from Oneida,” though I’m pretty sure there was more ‘fun’ than ‘grace’ occurring when the two of them got together! Ceil taught in elementary and high schools in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, and Connecticut for thirty-five years. She won the respect of her students because of the enthusiasm she put into helping them grasp certain concepts and master important skills and also, I think, because of the respect she showed each of them. Her low-key approach and very dry wit captured them and her patience and encouragement instilled a measure of confidence in those who had little or no confidence in their own math ability. She made quite an impact on her students; several of them posted on Facebook after learning of her death.

After leaving the classroom, Ceil put her math skills to work in a variety of positions. She served as a social service assistant at Mercy House in Albany, and as a financial secretary at institutions in New York City, White Plains, NY, and Brooklyn, NY. She enjoyed the challenge of learning these new positions and developed strong relationships with her co-workers. It was during these years that Ceil developed her lasting love for New York City and especially the New York Mets. She became an expert subway traveler. Mary Rassley affirmed that Ceil could get to any location either uptown or downtown in the city using the subway and never got lost or took the wrong train. Later, when both Mary and Ceil lived in Scranton, they would often take the “Shopper’s Special” one-day bus trip to New York. Mary would visit the museums and Ceil would hop the subway to lower Manhattan, catch the Staten Island ferry, enjoy some time walking around, and return to meet Mary at the end of the afternoon for their bus ride back to Scranton. Ceil truly enjoyed these trips.

When she left New York and came to Scranton, Ceil served as office clerk in the IHM business office, office assistant in our development office, and a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Center and at the IHM Center. From 2013 until the present Ceil served as a prayer minister here at Our Lady of Peace.

We were blessed by the special gift of Ceil’s life with us. She never tried to be someone other than her true self. Her trust in God and her deep gratitude for all that God and life gave her defined her life among us. She was always ready with a word or act of kindness or support and her generosity was never-ending. Her natural curiosity caused us to pause and reconsider our own assumptions and her quick, dry wit was spot-on, giving us many wonderful laughs. Her integrity and unassuming manner drew others to her, and they were fortunate to share the depth of her unwavering faith in God as well as her spirit of adventure. She was always ready for a trip, whether it be to Oneida or New York or anywhere. Truth be told, though, we did wonder if Ceil had secretly learned to drive in Europe because, as Mary told me, she seemed to drive better on the wrong side of the road!

Ceil loved to sing and her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” I have no doubt that heaven was singing that song last Thursday when Ceil returned home to the everlasting sunshine of God’s loving embrace and that of her parents, Theresa and William, her sisters, Catherine and Mary, and her brother, William.

Our prayers are with Mary and John and their families. We pray too for her many friends, especially Sisters Carleen and Mary, the sisters here at OLP, especially those who lived with her in 1A, and her Band members, with whom she was celebrating her seventy-fifth jubilee this year. We pray too for all her IHM sisters, her former students, and the administrators and staff at Our Lady of Peace, and all who knew and loved Ceil. We ask the God of all consolation to comfort us.

The torch of truth that she carried
has lighted many a path
and lightened many a burden.

Former Senator Alan Simpson

Ceil’s integrity and tireless commitment truly did make a difference in the lives of so many of her students and us. May her light continue to shine and bless us with her spirit of adventure and trust in God.

Mary and John will now place the scriptures on Ceil’s 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 Ceil home.

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