In Memory

Sister M. Michel Keenan, IHM

March 28, 1924 – May 1, 2019

Michel Keenan, IHM

Sister M. Michel Keenan, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on March 28, 1924, in Payette, ID, and given the name Patricia. She was the daughter of the late John and Lucille Bindel Keenan. She entered the IHM Congregation on February 6, 1946, made temporary profession of her vows on August 2, 1948, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1951.

Sister Michel served as a teacher in the following schools: St. John the Evangelist High School in Pittston, PA, from 1948 to 1950; St. Paul High School in Scranton, PA, from 1950 to 1953; and Boys Central Catholic High School in Portland, OR, from 1953 to 1955. She was a doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame from 1955 to 1957.

Prior to entering the IHM Congregation, she was a telegraph teletype operator at the U.S. Government District Transportation Office in Spokane, WA, from 1941 to 1946. Following her studies at Notre Dame, she was at Marywood College in Scranton, PA, from 1958 to 1978, serving on the faculty from 1958 to 1968; as graduate dean from 1960 to 1968; and as vice president for academic affairs from 1968 to 1978. From 1974 to 1979, Sister Michel was appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania to the State Board of Education, Council of Higher Education.

Sister Michel was then elected superior general of the IHM Congregation in Scranton, PA, and served from 1978 to 1986. She was director of the Office of Justice and Peace for the congregation from 1986 to 1988. She was assistant vice president for academic affairs at Heritage College in Toppenish, WA, from 1988 to 2000 and special assistant to the president at Heritage College from 2006 to 2010. During her service at Heritage College, she was named Person of the Year.

Throughout her religious life and to the present, Sister Michel’s knowledge of and love for the congregation’s history and heritage led her to write several volumes on the history of the congregation and the lives of its superiors general. She served as a researcher and writer with the IHM Archives Office from 2001 to 2006 and from 2010 until her time of death. Sister was an instructor at the Marywood University Writing Center. She also served on various diocesan and community boards including the Marywood Board of Trustees. She was awarded the Presidential Medal by Marywood in 1986.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English/social sciences, and a Master of Arts degree in education, both from Marywood College, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Notre Dame.

She is preceded in death by a brother, Dr. Thomas, and a sister, Mary Hecht.

She is survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Monday, May 6, at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at the IHM Center, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Friends may call at the IHM Center on Sunday, May 5, between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Interment will follow Mass on Monday 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, Fall 2019 issue

Reflection given by Sister Mary Ellen Higgins, IHM Congregation Vice-President

Sister M. Michel Keenan, IHM, funeral on May 6, 2019

Welcome sisters, associates and friends and thank you all for joining us today as we celebrate the life of our dear Sister Michel Keenan. A special welcome to Msgr. John Jordan, a wonderful friend to our IHM congregation, who will our celebrant for today’s Mass.

Before I begin, I wish to share with all of you a message from Sisters Ellen, Terri and Nancy who are presently in Rome for the UISG. They regret not being here with us however, they are with us in spirit and prayer. So allow me to share their message….

“We join our thoughts and prayers with all IHMs as we grieve the loss of our Sister Michel. Her presence among us for these many years shaped and directed our congregation life and spirit in so many incomparable ways. We are forever indebted to her for her incredible strength and wisdom, scholarship and leadership. Her writings provide for us a rich legacy of our congregational mission and history. We know she is already at her computer in heaven, interviewing God and all the saints for her new book on the history of heaven. Give her eternal rest and peace forever.”

In all of our names I wish to thank Sr. Michel’s Sacred Heart Com. who have journeyed together faithfully with her over these past years. Thank you also to Sisters Mary Kay and Kate, Jamie Mancuso, the nursing staff at OLP and Sacred heart Hospice who cared so lovingly for Michel over her last days. I would be remiss if I did not extend heart felt gratitude to all our sisters and staff who have helped over these past days in a myriad of ways.

This morning we are gathered to lay to rest the body of our dear Sister Michel and to celebrate her vibrant spirit which will always remain with us and among us. We are also here to celebrate a life which was lived as a generous and total gift of self to the Church through our IHM Congregation for seventy three years. Sister Michel’s selfless spirit and capable leadership were extraordinary gifts to us her IHM sisters and to so many others over her lifetime.

Sister Michel was born to John and Lucille Keenan in Payette, Idaho on March 28, 1924. She was one of three children and grew up as the youngest child among her siblings Thomas and Mary.

Michel entered our IHM congregation in February of 1946 at the age of 21. That winter Michel traveled to Scranton by train for four days and recalled meeting many interesting people on that trip, even a few cowboys. Those encounters she recalled were helpful since once arrived in Scranton she was questioned (having been from the west) whether she knew any “cowboys or Indians!”

During her life as an IHM, Michel was an outstanding high school educator and then joined the faculty at Marywood University in 1958 to later become the graduate dean and subsequently the vice-president of academic affairs.

Sister Michel was elected as the president of our IHM congregation for two terms from 1978 to 1986. She was instrumental as president in inviting us to explore new ways to live an apostolic spirituality as IHM’s, since after the II Vatican Council religious were challenged to find ways to shift from trying to work in active ministries with a monastic spirituality to embrace an apostolic spirituality that supported our ministerial efforts.

After her time in elected leadership S. Michel served as the director of Justice and Peace and began her work on the history of the congregation which tapped into her gifts as a writer and researcher.

In 1988, Sister Michel traveled back out west to work at Heritage University in Toppenish, WA. The mission statement of Heritage University gives us some insights into why Sister Michel would leave Scranton. Their mission is to empower a multi-cultural and inclusive student body to overcome the social, cultural, economic and geographic barriers that limit access to higher education. It is easy to understand how this move then was a perfect response for Sr. Michel’s desire to search for prophetic ways to live our vowed life in a world hungering for justice and meaning.”

Michel returned east to Scranton in 2010 where she continued to work on our IHM History as a writer and a researcher.

We count as treasures all the congregational history that Sister Michel captured in many books that she wrote over the years.

The History of our IHM congregation; The Story of the Irish Sisters who entered, History of our Sisters in South America, of St. Joseph’s/Marian Community Hospital, the Marian Convent and finally the History of the IHM Center which Sister Michel completed a few days before she died.

As we lay Sister Michel’s untiring body to rest we recall her Psalm Nine for the IHM congregation: “Take care of this vine and protect what your right hand has planted…Nourish our growth within and without and harvest us for your glory” Sister Michel spent her life in ministry taking the spirit of this Psalm to heart. Now, our God of Life, Light and Love has harvested our dear Sister Michel into the fullness of God’s glory! May Sister Michel and all our sisters who have gone before us live on in our hearts and always inspire our lives.

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