In Memory

Sister M. Helaine O’Dea, IHM

October 14, 1916 – April 17, 2008

Helaine ODea, IHM

Sister M. Helaine O’Dea, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

She was born on October 14, 1916 in New York, NY, and given the name Catherine. She was the daughter of the late James and Ellen Hanrahan O’Dea. She entered the IHM Congregation on February 2, 1935, made temporary profession of her vows on August 2, 1937, and final profession of her vows on August 1, 1940.

Sister Helaine was an educator most of her religious life, and served at the following schools: Cathedral Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1937 to 1940; St. Patrick Elementary School in Oneida, NY, from 1941 to 1944; St. Ann Elementary School in Scranton from 1944 to 1948; St. Mary Elementary School in Manhasset, NY, from 1948 to 1954; St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1966 to 1968; Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1968 to 1972; Bishop Klonowski High School in Scranton, PA, from 1972 to 1980; and Maria Regina Diocesan High School in Uniondale, NY, from 1983 to 1984.

Sister Helaine served as principal at St. Ann School in Devon, CT, from 1954 to 1965, and at St. Rosalia Elementary School in Pittsburgh from 1965 to 1966.

Sister served as a catechetical instructor at St. Ignatius Parish in Kingston, PA, from 1940 to 1941 and St. Ann Parish in Devon, CT, from 1954 to 1965.

Sister Helaine also served as secretary in several institutions including: Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in New York, NY, from 1980 to 1983; St. Mary High School in Manhasset, NY, from 1984 to 1999; and at Our Lady of Grace Montessori School and Center in Manhasset, NY, from 1999 to 2006. From 2006 to 2008, she was a volunteer at Highfield Gardens Care Center of Great Neck in Great Neck, NY.

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

She received a bachelor of arts degree in education and a master of science degree in education, both from Marywood College.

She was preceded in death by a brother, James.

She is survived by a brother, Michael, of New York, NY, two sisters, Helen Mullen of Wynnewood, PA, and Maryann Cryan of Fayetteville, NY, nieces and nephews.

The funeral will be Monday, April 21, at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Peace Residence, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Interment will follow at St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Moscow, PA. Friends may call at Our Lady of Peace Residence on Sunday, April 20, between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:30 p.m.

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, Fall 2008 issue

Beyond a doubt, Sister Helaine O’Dea was a true New Yorker born and bred in the city. The Irish heritage of her family was ingrained in her spirit, wit, and gift for storytelling.

We met in late August of 1971 when we were both missioned to South Scranton to teach at South Catholic High School. Our classrooms were next to each other and we forged a friendship that remained loyal for thirty-seven years.

Helaine’s life proclaimed the message of John’s Gospel, that Jesus came that we might have life, life in abundance! In Helaine’s 91 and ½ graced years, she lived her life to the fullest, even as she transitioned from her life at St. Mary’s in Manhasset to Our Lady of Peace in late January.

All who knew Helaine and were a part of her life experienced one thing in common – her zest for life. She had varied interests ranging from traveling, reading (with a special fondness for the NY Daily News), cooking, crocheting, sewing, quilting, dancing, making ceramics, shopping for bargains, and playing bridge, to visiting the Atlantic City casinos and the race tracks!

In the spirit of St. Alphonsus, Helaine prayed every day for the poor, lonely, downtrodden, homeless, unemployed, and depressed. She also reached out to them by volunteering in a homeless shelter for men in Greenwich Village. She knitted scarves and lap robes for the poor of New York City and gathered her many friends to join in this effort to send large cartons into the city to keep the homeless warm.

Helaine was an inspiration of how to age gracefully and graciously. She will be dearly missed by her family and many friends for the myriad ways she touched their lives and those of others. We all rejoice, however, that she is now in the great circle of God’s eternal embrace – the God from whom she came.

by Sr. Suzanne Delaney, IHM

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