In Memory

Sister Mary Edith Opferman, IHM

February 25, 1931 – February 3, 2012

Sister Mary Edith Opferman, IHM (Sister Mary Claude) died at Our Lady of Peace Residence on February 3, 2012. Her parents were the late Joseph P. and Kathleen McGraw Opferman. Sister was born in Pittsburgh, PA, on Feb. 25, 1931. The family moved to New York City in 1934, where Mary Edith graduated from Ascension Grade School in 1944, then went away to boarding school in Quebec, Canada. She graduated from College St. Maurice H.S. in Montreal in 1948 and entered the IHM Congregation on Feb. 2, 1949, after working for 6 months in New York. After her 1951 Profession, Sister served as Kindergarten and primary teacher at Epiphany School in Sayre, PA, Primary teacher at St. Bernard’s Annex and Holy Rosary School in North Scranton, Mother of Mercy School in Washington, NC, St. Lawrence School in South Williamsport. She received her B.A. and M.S. in Education degrees from Marywood College.

She moved to the Marian convent in 1969, where she served for many years in various support services, assisting with occupational therapy arts and crafts, sacristy duties, greeting visitors and answering phones, companioning and doing errands for disabled sisters, until she herself became disabled and moved to prayer ministry in the late 1990s. Her most special ministry during her lifetime was to pray for priests.

She leaves behind six siblings, William J. of London, KY, Joseph P. of Graham, WA, Suzanne Nicholson of Vero Beach, FL, Sister Babette, IHM, of Scranton, PA, Helen Von Salzen of Pinehurst, NC, and Dorothy Purcell of Mishawaka, IN, plus nieces, nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

The funeral will be Wednesday, February 8 at 11:00 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 Tuesday, February 7 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 Wednesday 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

My sister, Mary Edith, was little known and understood by many, yet a good and faithful friend and intercessor for others. In our family she was a legend, being a child model, gracing the cover of the Saturday Evening Post at age nine, offered a screen test for a part in National Velvet at eleven, having a prize winning photo in the window of the New York News building at sixteen, and appearing on the front page of the New York Herald Tribune with Cardinal Spellman at seventeen.

Boys flocked around her, and more than one wanted to marry her, but she had already decided at age ten to be like St. Therese of the Child Jesus, whose autobiography she read at that time. She would become a sister and, if God asked it, would accept a life of suffering for priests.

The suffering came, allowing her only a few years to serve as a teacher, when she was loved by her students and made many friends. For most of her life after 1969, she struggled to serve as best she could despite the havoc wrought by bipolar disorder and treatments which didn’t always work for her. Off mission but always available when able to help, listening to and praying for others, special prayer for priests became the main purpose of her life. Total physical disability followed and then dementia. God had truly accepted all she had when she peacefully let go on the third of February as her sisters by her side prayed and sang her soul to heaven. Her youthful beauty returned and a small smile lit her face. I did not wish Mary Edith eternal rest, but eternal joy—and the chance to have some “fun” at last!

Her “little sister”, Babette, IHM, who never got to know her as she must really be.

by Babette Opferman, IHM

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