In Memory

Sister M. Elsa Eckenrode, IHM

January 27, 1924 – January 17, 2023

Sister M. Elsa Eckenrode, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Tuesday, January 17, 2023, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on January 27, 1924, in Cresson, PA, and given the name Elizabeth Regina. She was the daughter of the late Herman and Elizabeth Effinger Eckenrode. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 7, 1943, and made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1946, and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1949. Sister Elsa received a Bachelor of Science degree in English/social sciences from Marywood College.

Sister Elsa served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Paul Elementary School in New Bern, NC, from 1946 to 1948; St. Agnes Elementary School in Washington, NC, from 1948 to 1950; Sacred Hearts Elementary School in New York, NY, from 1950 to 1958; St. Mary Elementary School in Avoca, PA, from 1958 to 1960; Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary School in Inwood, NY, from 1960 to 1963; St. Patrick Elementary School in Oneida, NY, from 1963 to 1966; St. Agnes Elementary School in Lock Haven, PA, from 1966 to 1967; St. Agnes Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1967 to 1969; St. Mary Elementary School in Hollidaysburg, PA, from 1969 to 1977; St. Aloysius Elementary School in Cresson, PA, from 1977 to 1984; and St. Bernard Elementary School in Hastings, PA, from 1984 to 1990.

Sister also served as an instructor at the Educational Enrichment Institute at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 1990 to 2014.

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

She is preceded in death by seven brothers: John Joseph, William A., Alphonsus, Michael Vernon, Joseph Earl, Francis Edward, and Robert Charles; and three sisters: Anna Mae Myers, Mary Laverne, and Mary Ruth Dobbie.

She is survived by nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and by the members of the IHM Congregation.

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

Prayer of Remembrance and Funeral Mass


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

Every once in a while, a gentle, quiet soul walks among us. Going about her daily ministry tending to the needs of others, unassumingly faithful to her vocation call of service and love. In the last few days I have had the privilege of getting to know Betty Jean Eckenrod, our Sister Mary Elsa, posthumously through the eyes and experiences of others who shared our IHM life with her along the way.

Elsa’s life began and ended somewhat tumultuously, but in between she touched the lives of many, starting with her Grandparents, Parents,10 siblings, many nieces, nephews, and many, many grand nieces and nephews who are her roots, her family. She entered the congregation from Cresson, PA in 1943 and began her teaching career, as I did in New Bern, NC. Over the next 68 years, Sister Elsa would touch the lives of approximately 1,500 elementary school children and their families, countless numbers of Sisters and everyone else she met along the way.

Elsa came into the world pre-maturely 99 years ago next week, with very little hope of survival from the medical community. Her Grandmother, who would hear nothing of her not surviving, took her home, swaddled her in blankets and placed her in her coal stove oven to keep her warm and alive, and by all accounts and living proof, she thrived. As a grandmother myself, I fully appreciate the love and belief her Grandmother felt, doing anything she could to protect that child no matter the method or the cost. I would like to believe that Elsa’s vocation to God and with us began there in that coal stove oven, her Grandmother’s own incubator.

In her final days, illness consumed her mind and body causing her to behave in ways that we cannot understand. But during those days Elsa lived with her Sisters here in the 1A household, and was cared for by our exceptional staff at Our Lady of Peace, and the LIFE Program caregivers, who didn’t know Elsa in her hay days, when she walked among us as a sweet woman described as someone who knew her well, to be “as quiet as a mouse”. But that mattered not to the people who fed her, dressed her, spoke gently and quietly to her, actually, and without knowingly, mimicking the very way that Sister Elsa had lived her life.

What have I learned by preparing this reflection? I have learned that a humble and quiet woman named Elizabeth, Mary Elsa, who loved to drive and to walk, roamed this earth quietly yet powerfully impacting thousands of lives and modelling everything we IHM’s profess to be: Elsa you were an,

  • Embracer of the Paschal Mystery,
  • Living a mystical presence while
  • Engaging in relationships and
  • Accepting the letting go moments that life presents, and along the way,
  • Fostering mutuality
  • As you Planned for your whole life a future yet unknown

You were a living presence of our IHM Direction Statement.

In her last will and testament Sister Elsa’s last written legal words were, and I quote her,

“Just let me go to God quietly”. Today those words are fulfilled for her. Go quietly Elsa into the loving arms of God and all those awaiting you. Amen.

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