In Memory

Sister M. Francis Borgia O’Donnell, IHM

October 19, 1931 – November 4, 2019

Francis Borgia O'Donnell, IHM

Sister M. Francis Borgia O’Donnell, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Monday, November 4, 2019, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She was born on October 19, 1931 in Lock Haven, PA, and given the name Joan Elaine. She was the daughter of the late Lawrence and Sara McNerney O’Donnell. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1949 and made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1952 and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1955.

Sister Francis Borgia served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Patrick Elementary School in Spangler, PA, from 1952 to 1958; St. Ann Elementary School in Devon, CT, from 1958 to 1959; St. Clare Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from, 1959 to 1960; Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School in Forty Fort, PA, from 1960 to 1961; St. Ann Elementary School in Nyack, NY, from 1961 to 1965; St. Pius X Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1965 to 1968; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Forest Hills, NY, from 1968 to 1969; Epiphany Elementary School in Sayre, PA, from 1969 to 1971; St. John the Baptist Elementary School in Unity, PA, from 1971 to 1973; St. Raymond Elementary School in East Rockaway, NY, from 1973 to 1977; Archbishop Neale Elementary School in La Plata MD, from 1977 to 1981; St. Paul Elementary School in New Bern, NC, from 1988 to 1991; and St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, MD, from 1991 to 1995.

Sister served as a principal in the following schools: St. Pius X Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1965 to 1968; St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Bellefonte, PA, from 1981 to 1988; St. Paul Elementary School in New Bern, NC, from 1988 to 1991; and St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, MD, from 1991 to 1995.

She also served as director of religious education at St. Mary of the Mount Parish in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1995 to 2009.

From 2009 until the time of her death, Sister Francis Borgia was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Music degree in music education, a Master of Science degree in secondary education, a Master of Science degree in music education, and a Master of Science degree in religious education all from Marywood College.

She is survived by cousins; and by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Thursday, November 7, 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 Wednesday, November 6, between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:00 p.m. Interment will follow Mass on Thursday at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, PA.

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.



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

Sister M. Francis Borgia O’Donnell, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on November 7, 2019:

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

All who knew Francis can attest to the fact that she lived her life embracing fully that deep joy and love for others in her music and in her life. As we heard yesterday from some of her former students, she was someone special, someone who made a difference in their lives. She was a gift to and for others; she didn’t seek personal attention or gain, but rather put others before herself. When we came into her presence, we were met always by a welcoming smile, eyes full of laughter, and a joyful greeting. Her great pleasure was in seeing to the well-being of others, particularly her students. Her joy and kindness tell us of a person deeply in love with her God and confident in God’s love for her, which she shared unconditionally with all. Her ‘yes’ to God and others was the simple, clear act of belief and trust in God that is the essence of the spiritual journey we are all on. For Francis, this trust
was the source of her gentle strength, love, and joy throughout her life.

It was, I’m sure, because of this relationship with God that Francis was one of those rare people who refused to take herself too seriously. She could laugh at herself and that wonderful gift of acknowledging her own vulnerabilities allowed us to be more freely ourselves as well. She modeled for us the awesome grace of understanding that it is God, not ourselves, who makes all things possible, who is the center of all life, and she did this simply by who she was. What a valuable lesson for all of us to try to imitate!

Francis was a gifted musician and born educator. During her sixty-eight years as an IHM, she served as a teacher and principal in schools in five different states, including out west in Idaho. Her joyful, non-judgmental way touched the minds and hearts of her students, teachers, and parents and her example of respect and love for each individual was a powerful message to all, as we heard yesterday. Her love of music was contagious and uplifted hearts and minds wherever she went, including during her years as a director of religious education in Pittsburgh, Always an educator, she relished the opportunity to share her faith, her own prayer relationship with God, and her love of music with her parish family. In 2009, she brought that same spirit here to Our Lady of Peace as a prayer minister.

We rejoice in the gift of Francis’ life with us. Just as with her students, she won our hearts with her kind and joyful presence, openness of heart, and smiling eyes that right up to her final days told the story of her soul and spirit. Her life taught us about trust in God and deep gratitude for the many blessings that she received. Not one to complain, she was blessed with a quick, but gentle, wit that could bring a smile or laugh even in difficult times. Francis was a woman of faith and we indeed were blessed in countless ways by the remarkable life of this special woman. We are forever grateful to God for her presence in our lives.

We pray very specially today in memory of Francis’ parents, Sara and Lawrence, whom she now joins forever in the joy of eternal life. We pray too for all whose lives were touched by Francis’ kindness and love, especially her cousins, her dear band members, all her IHM sisters, and her countless students and friends. We remember, too, the OLP and LIFE nurses and staff who cared for her here at Our Lady of Peace. We trust that the kindness and joy that marked Francis’ life will live on in each of us.

In her book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Meant to Live, author Emily Freeman wrote: “We arrived here as art and we spend our lives uncovering the beauty we [each one of us] have to offer. As the community of humanity, we will do that in a million different little ways.” She posed this question to her readers, to us: “What if your art is part of a bigger picture, part of a daily grace God has in mind for someone else?” For all of her life, Francis Borgia shared her ‘art’, her music, her gift of life, her soul, so that others’ lives would know goodness, know joy, know God. My prayer for all of us today is that we can answer Freeman’s question as authentically and eloquently with our lives as I now ask Eleanor Mary Marconi to place the
scriptures on Francis’ casket, for she heard the Word of God; indeed, she staked her life upon it, and received life to the full… the Word now
beckons her home.

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