In Memory

Sister M. Joanella Ryan, IHM

April 16, 1917 – February 15, 2012

Sister M. Joanella Ryan, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on April 16, 1917, in Brooklyn, NY, and given the name Mary (Marian). She was the daughter of the late Joseph and Mary Ellen McGowan Ryan. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1934, made her temporary profession of vows on May 3, 1937, and her final profession of vows on August 1, 1940.

Sister Joanella served as a principal at the following schools: Immaculate Conception Elementary School in West Pittston, PA, from 1955 to 1958; St. Matthew Elementary School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1958 to 1962; and St. Raymond Elementary School in East Rockaway, NY, from 1967 to 1969.

Sister served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Peter of Alcantara Elementary School in Port Washington, NY, from 1937 to 1938; St. Mary Elementary School in North Pittston, PA, from 1938 to 1948; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Forest Hills, NY, from 1948 to 1955 and 1989 to 1993; St. John the Baptist Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1969 to 1971; St. Rita Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1974 to 1976; St. Mary Elementary School in Manhasset, NY, from 1976 to 1980; Sacred Heart Elementary School in Mt. Holly, NJ, from 1980 to 1989; and Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Staten Island, NY, from 1993 to 1999.

Sister Joanella also served as local superior at the IHM Motherhouse in Scranton, PA, from 1962 to 1967, and at the IHM Generalate from 1971 to 1974. She served as a prayer minister at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Staten Island, NY, from 1999 to 2004, and a receptionist at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2004 to 2008.

From 2008 until the time of her death, Sister Joanella served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Art degree in music from Marywood College and a Master of Art degree in education from the University of Detroit.

She was preceded in death by a brother, Joseph, Jr.; and two sisters, Elizabeth Scott and Genevieve Bewalder.

She is survived by a sister-in-law, Mary P. of Brooklyn, NY; a niece, Mary Lyons of Staten Island, NY; and nephews, Charles Bewalder of Budd Lake, NJ, Thomas Bewalder of Maspeth, NY, John Bewalder of Succasunna, NJ, and John Ryan of Edison, NJ.

The funeral will be Saturday, February 18, 2012, at 9:00 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 Friday, February 17, between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:00 p.m. Interment will follow Mass on Friday 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, Summer 2012 issue

When I was asked to write this reflection about Sister Joanella, I asked myself, “Where do I begin to find the words to adequately pay tribute to this great woman?” Then the lyrics of Carey Landry’s hymn “Gentle Woman” came to my mind. I believe Sister Joanella mirrors those words. She was a gentle, peaceful, strong, and bright woman.

Sister Joanella loved the congregation, and throughout her seventy years as an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister, she graciously and generously accepted her appointments to serve as a superior of a convent, a principal of a school, or a prayer minister.

At the time of her passing, so many sisters told stories of when they were the recipients of Sister Joanella’s kindness. Over the years, many former students contacted her to thank her for her love and guidance. At her wake, I met a woman who shared with me her admiration of her first-grade teacher of many years ago.

Sister’s life was full of gratitude and joy. I visited her many times at Our Lady of Peace Residence. She would often tell me how much she appreciated the care, thoughtfulness, and kindness of the administration and the nursing staff. Visits of her niece and nephews always brought great joy to her. When a visit included their babies and young children, that was an extra special visit!

Sister Joanella was a wonderful friend to me and to many, many sisters. She was proud and happy to say that she thought she knew “all of the sisters” in the congregation. I believe that “all of the sisters” are happy that their paths in life crossed the path of Sister Joanella. She has left us a beautiful example of kindness, gentleness, and love. May she now reap the fruits of a beautiful life!

by Kathleen Hassett, IHM

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