In Memory

Sister M. Sabine Higgins, IHM

February 10, 1921 – May 9, 2021

Sabine Higgins, IHM

Sister M. Sabine Higgins, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Sunday, May 9, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on February 10, 1921, in Scranton, PA, and given the name Dolores. She was the daughter of the late James and Sabina McAndrews Higgins. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1942, made temporary profession of her vows on May 8, 1945, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1948.

Sister Sabine served as a teacher at the following schools: Epiphany Elementary School in Sayre, PA, from 1945 to 1949; St. Mary Elementary School in Patton, PA, from 1949 to 1950; St. Stephen Elementary School in New York, NY, from 1950 to 1961; St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay, NY, from 1961 to 1968; and St. Mary of Mount Carmel Elementary School in Dunmore, PA, from 1982 to 1988.

Sister served as principal at the following schools: St. Ann Elementary School in Nyack, NY, from 1968 to 1974; Holy Rosary Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1974 to 1975; St. Mary Elementary School in Hollidaysburg, PA, from 1979 to 1980; and St. Peter of Alacantra Elementary School in Port Washington, NY, from 1980 to 1982. She served as the assistant principal at St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay, NY, from 1975 to 1978.

Sister Sabine also served as director of students and research at St. Joseph’s Center in Scranton, PA, from 1978 to 1979; production assistant at IHM Art Studio in Scranton, PA, from 1988 to 1991; on the support staff at the Marian Convent in Scranton, PA, from 1991 to 2006; and on the support staff at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA, from 2006 to 2010.

From 2010 until the time of her death, Sister Sabine was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and a Master of Science degree in elementary education, both from Marywood College.

She was preceded in death by three brothers, Joseph, John, and Jerome, and four sisters, Sister M. Carmine, IHM, Eleanor Reese, Grace Lavelle, and Carmel O’Hora.

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. Due to restrictions related to the coronavirus, the funeral mass and graveside service are private.

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.


Combined Vespers Prayer Service:

Sister M. Sabine Higgins, IHM
Funeral Eulogy, May 13, 2021
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

Just in case anyone might think that Dolie is relaxing a bit in heaven, I received a text message from there last night (luckily I have unlimited data). It seems that during her admissions interview with St. Peter last Sunday evening, Dolie handed him a very long and thorough “to-do” list of items needing his boss’s immediate action down here on earth. Well, after seeing the list and meeting with a very persuasive Dolie, God appointed her Director of Operations for Heavenly Interventions, moved St. Peter’s office down the hall, and gave Dolie the office right next to his. Be assured, all is well in heaven! (To have known Dolie is to know that this scenario is really not all that far-fetched.)

Those we hold closest to our hearts never truly leave us.
They live on in the kindness they have shared
and the love they brought into our lives.

Author Unknown

For sure, Dolie will be greatly missed, but she has left us a rich legacy of a well-lived life of one hundred years that will forever be a part of us. She had told me some years ago that I was to make this talk short and definitely there was to be no eulogy at the end of the liturgy. In truth, neither my talk nor a eulogy is really necessary because Dolie preached her own homily by the way she lived her long and blessed life. And how fitting that on this Ascension Thursday we celebrate her return home to her loving God whom she served so well all her life.

When Sabine entered the IHMs, she focused on her goal of serving God through service to others, and dedicated herself to the ministry of education, first as a teacher and then as administrator. What an incredible impact she made! She was a gifted leader, planner, and, especially, a superb mentor. She had a unique and wonderful ability to instill confidence and commitment in students as well as teachers, parents, school board members, and even pastors with her straightforward approach combined with intelligence, humor, integrity, and a willingness to listen. These same qualities were evident when she later served as director of students and research at St. Joseph’s Center, production assistant at the IHM Art Studio, assistant coordinator at the Marian Convent, and support staff member and prayer minister here at OLP.

In truth, though, Dolie’s true legacy lies not in what she did or accomplished, but in the “how” she lived and was throughout her life. She was as authentic a person as I have ever known and that integrity never wavered throughout her life. Her relationship with God, as with all of us, was honest, genuine, and deep, built upon the foundation laid and nurtured by her loving, supportive, and very large family, whom she loved very much and who continue to return that love through three generations.

I’ve heard so many wonderful stories this past week about how Dolie’s life was a gift to and for others, how her generosity, sharp Irish wit, and love of the congregation touched so many. I first met her almost fifty years ago. My very first mission was St. Ann’s in Nyack where Dolie was the superior and principal. The rumor that she was a fair but tough, no-nonsense principal preceded my meeting her, so I had a lot apprehension. But as is usually the case, my imagined fears were soon eased as I gradually came to appreciate her true goodness and her strength of character and we became close friends. She brought me into her family and she became part of mine.

I so admired her courage and even temperament when handling difficult situations. I remember once at a parish council meeting, when they were trying to find people to run a new weekly parish Bingo, the chair asked if the sisters could do that since their work day ended at 2:30 each afternoon. Very calmly, Dolie stood up and rather than be angry or upset with him, proceeded to list the various committees, CCD classes, after-school meetings, etc. with which the sisters were involved. When she finished, she simply sat down. Needless to say, end of that discussion.

Gratitude, humility, courage, humor, intelligence, fair-mindedness, and her enduring personal authenticity were hallmarks of Dolie’s life. She was such a wonderful mentor to me and so many others. Even during these last few years here at OLP, she taught us about acceptance, contentment, and appreciation. She kept us on our toes too, and didn’t hesitate to tell us things she noticed. Just a few weeks ago, she called Sr. Kate over to where she was sitting and quietly said, “I like the way you fixed your hair today – better than it was yesterday!” Ever honest, ever sharp!

So on this beautiful ascension day we give abundant thanks to God for the gift of Dolie’s life among us and celebrate this beginning of her eternal life with her God in heaven. We remember today very specially her parents, Sabina and James, her sisters, Ellie, Grace, Sister Carmine, and Carm, and brothers, Joseph, John, and Jerome. What a joyful reunion they, and so many of her sister friends, surely enjoyed last Sunday night when Dolie arrived in heaven. I’m pretty sure there was some Bailey’s Irish Cream shared by all!

We hold in our prayer today Dolie’s family: her nieces, Nancy and Joanie, her nephew, James, her grandnephews and grandnieces, and their extended families, her IHM sisters and associates, the staff here at OLP, and all those whose lives were enriched by knowing Dolie.

Many people in this world yearn for the limelight, or look to do something that affects our world on a grand scale. Dolie’s life is a reminder of the extraordinary impact of a lifetime of fidelity and integrity done out of selfless love. Her legacy is written in our hearts forever. I borrowed some excerpts from a beautiful song entitled For Good from the Broadway musical, Wicked, that speaks to this truth and describes our gratitude for Dolie’s life among us.

I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
bringing something we must learn,
and we are led to those who help us most to grow,
if we let them, and we help them in return.

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true,

but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you . . .
and . . . whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend. . .
So much of me is made of what I learned from you;
You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart.

Who can say if I’ve [we’ve] been changed for the better;
I do believe I have been changed for the better,
and because I knew you,
[because we knew you, Dolie,]
I [we] have been changed for good.

Nancy and James will now place the scriptures on Sabine’s casket, for indeed she heard the Word of God, she staked her life upon it and received life to the full . . . the Word now beckons Dolie home.

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