In Memory

Sister Margaret Burke, IHM

July 13, 1941 – November 17, 2019

Margaret Burke, IHM

Sister Margaret Burke, IHM, (formerly known as Sister M. Malachy) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Sunday, November 17, 2019 at Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton, PA.

She was born on July 13, 1941, in New York, NY. She was the daughter of the late John Andrew and Mary Grossman Burke. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1958, made her temporary profession of vows on March 11, 1961, and her final profession of vows on March 11, 1966.

Sister Margaret served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Patrick Elementary School in Spangler, PA, in 1961; Immaculate Conception Chapel School in Scranton, PA, from 1961 to 1964; St. Rosalia Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1964 to 1971; St. Matthew Elementary School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1971 to 1975; St. Paul Elementary School in New Bern, NC, from 1975 to 1978; St. Mary School in Manhasset, NY, from 1978 to 1979; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School in Rocky Mount, NC, from 1979 to 1984; St. Francis de Sales School in Lumberton, NC, from 1984 to 1986; St. Ann Elementary School in Nyack, NY, from 1986 to 1988; St. Ambrose Elementary School in Bridgeport, CT, from 1988 to 1994; and Holy Rosary Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1994 to 2007. She was on the library support staff at All Saints Academy in Scranton, PA, from 2007 to 2008.

Sister Margaret also served as an instructor at the IHM Educational Enrichment Institute in Scranton, PA, from 2010 to 2019; and as receptionist at The Catherine McAuley Center in Scranton, PA, from 2008 until the time of her death.

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

She is preceded in death by a brother, John Andrew.

She is survived by a brother, Thomas of Oyster Bay, NY, three sisters, Patricia of Dunedin, FL, Rosemary Mason of Portland, ME, and Katharine Micena of The Villages, FL, nieces and nephews. She is also survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Saturday, November 23, at 9:30 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at the IHM Center, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Friends may call at the IHM Center on Friday, November 22, 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 Saturday 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 Margaret Burke, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on November 23, 2019:

“Humans have a responsibility to find themselves where they are, in their own proper time and place… and… contribute either their response or
their evasions, either truth and act, or mere slogan and gesture.” Thomas Merton

I don’t know if Margaret ever read those words of Thomas Merton, but as I reflected upon her life and her dedication and love for all, especially the most vulnerable, and the countless lives she touched, I have no doubt that her contribution of a life of integrity, joy, and service has left a lasting and profound impact on all those she met. Yesterday we shared some wonderful stories about Margaret during the wake service and were reminded again of her many gifts: her uncanny ability to brighten a room the moment she entered; her humor, generosity, and compassion; her genuineness that was transparent to all she met. Those memories of her simple but profound legacy of selfless love and dedication will be a bright light leading us on our own journey beyond today’s sorrow.

Throughout her fifty-nine years as an IHM, Margaret travelled and ministered in four different states as an elementary school teacher and also as librarian. Her compassion and generous service in whatever needed to be done enriched the lives of countless students and parents. Her best lessons came from her own lived example of selflessness, respect, care, and love for God and all, especially those most in need. Her energy and enthusiasm drew others to her and even managed to change the minds of a few principals and pastors along the way. Once, after she had asked to leave her First Grade teaching assignment to teach adult literacy in the parish, she went back to her principal the following year with a request to return to her First Graders. Her persuasiveness won out after writing in her letter to the principal, “I… want to try to prevent illiteracy [from even starting] rather than to cure it.” That was Margaret to a “T” – her ministry was personal to her, not merely a job to be done. She was passionate about recognizing the inherent
God-given dignity and worth of each person and it was that belief, along with her deep faith and trust in God that was the source of her endless

Margaret also taught parish Religious Ed classes for many years and tutored students at our IHM Educational Enrichment Institute here at the IHM Center where her students loved her joy and creative teaching techniques. In 2008, Margaret began what I think was her “dream job,” perfectly matching her gifts with her call, at the Catherine McAuley Center here in Scranton. As the receptionist, she greeted all who came through the doors there with a welcoming spirit of love, understanding, and respect, and was a whirlwind of activity to make sure whatever was needed for the clients and staff was provided, from making aprons for the children to making sure the pantry was supplied, to crowd control monitor for the yard sales, and so much more. Susan remarked yesterday that the staff at the Center won’t really know everything that Margaret did behind the scenes until something
doesn’t get done. As I said earlier, Margaret was surely never limited or defined by her job title or description. Hers was a life of going beyond, of giving her all, to do whatever she could to help others. So many stories shared yesterday told of how she touched the lives of administrators, staff, clients, and visitors with unconditional and all-embracing love through her listening ear, words of gentle wisdom and humor, and multiple small acts of kindness.

Margaret’s joyful spirit came from a family who loved and nurtured her and who instilled in her a deep faith in and love of God and respect for all. That faith and love certainly supported her throughout her life. She lived the life she was given to the full and beyond, and appreciated the gift of each day. I think Maya Angelou captured best what Margaret believed and tried to live each day: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Passion, compassion, humor, and style: those who were fortunate enough to live or minister with Margaret would agree that these qualities are part of her legacy to us. I would add to that list her generous spirit, her integrity, her
bright smile, her perseverance, her selflessness, and, oh, yes, her gift of story-telling. Margaret relished the give-and-take of conversations, though quite honestly, I think we’d all agree that Margaret definitely ‘gave’ way more than she ‘took’ in any conversation! Even a seemingly mundane topic was something she could discuss at length until you found yourself 30 minutes late for whatever it was you were doing. You would try excusing yourself and even start to move on, and Margaret would continue talking! In reflecting back, those moments gave us insight into the joy, compassion, and love that filled Margaret’s life with meaning. She had a deep faith in the power of the human spirit and talents and we are blessed to have had her share her gifts and spirit with us.

So today we give abundant thanks to God for the gift of Margaret’s life among us and celebrate the beginning of her eternal life with her God in heaven. We remember today very specially her parents, Mary and John, and her brother, John. What a wonderful reunion they, and so many of her sister friends, surely enjoyed last Sunday when Margaret arrived in heaven! Of course, knowing Margaret, none of those who greeted her, including God, had a chance to say anything because she was surely talking non-stop about her journey to them and probably about lots of other things too! I’m pretty sure she has already set up one (or fifteen!) craft rooms in heaven and has a list of projects that even God would find overwhelming!

We hold in our prayer today Margaret’s family, the sisters at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Convent, the sisters and staff and her beloved clients at Catherine McAuley Center, her many dear IHM friends, her band members and mission group, and all with whom she shared life.

“When we leave this earth,
the love that we’ve given and received
remains behind to light the lives
of those we’ve touched –
each memory a candle burning bright.”
Author Unknown

The void created by the sudden loss of someone as beloved as Margaret is still hard to grasp. She was someone we took for granted would be around for many more years. Her laugh, her kindnesses, her stories … images so real and dear to us that we find it hard to believe she is gone. Yet our faith reassures today that Margaret is enjoying the fullness of God’s eternal love and joy and that her love and joy lives within us forever. Let us continue her legacy by the way we live our own lives.

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