In Memory

Sister Mary Elizabeth Costello, IHM

July 2, 1932 – June 26, 2021

Mary Elizabeth Costello, IHM

Sister Mary Elizabeth Costello, IHM, (formerly known as Sister M. St. Imelda) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Saturday, June 26, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on July 2, 1932, in Syracuse, NY. She was the daughter of the late John William and Elizabeth Ann Lyons Costello. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1949, and made her temporary profession of vows on May 8, 1952, and her final profession of vows on August 2, 1955.

Sister Mary Elizabeth served as a teacher in the following schools: Nativity Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1952 to 1956; St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 1956 to 1958; St. Ambrose Elementary School in Bridgeport, CT, from 1958 to 1959; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School in Asbury Park, NJ, from 1959 to 1961; St. Rosalia Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1961 to 1964; St. Bernardine Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1964 to 1966; St. Lawrence Elementary School in South Williamsport, PA, from 1966 to 1967; St. Mary of the Mount Elementary School in Pittsburgh, PA, from 1967 to 1971; St. Ann Elementary School in Nyack, NY, from 1973 to 1976; and St. Patrick Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1976 to 1981.

Sister also served as teacher and coordinator of the primary school at St. Mary Elementary School in Manhasset, NY, from 1971 to 1973; principal at St. Clare Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1981 to 1985; and teacher and coordinator of the primary school at St. Paul Elementary School in New Bern, NC, from 1985 to 1991.

Sister Mary Elizabeth served at Most Holy Rosary Elementary School in Syracuse, NY, from 1991 to 2013 in the following capacities: teacher, facilitator of IHM Education Program, facilitator of resource center and academic interventionist.

From 2013 until the time of her death, Sister Mary Elizabeth was a prayer minister at Most Holy Rosary Convent in Syracuse, NY, and later at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

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

She is preceded in death by two brothers, John and Daniel, and two sisters, Jane Valentino, and Patricia Tom.

She is survived by three brothers, Edward of Hamilton, MT, David of Syracuse, NY, Raymond of Syracuse, NY, a sister, Theresa Robinson of Minoa, NY, nieces and nephews. She is also survived 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.



Sister Mary Elizabeth Costello, IHM
Funeral Eulogy, June 30, 2021
by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM, Congregation President

“Our parents give us life
but love links our hearts.”

These words were on a plaque in Mary Elizabeth’s room here at OLP. As I reflected upon her life, her dedication and love for education, and the countless lives she impacted, I found these words aptly summed up the guiding spirit of Mary Elizabeth’s life. Her goodness and deep faith were rooted in her own family life. With five brothers and three sisters, she learned early the lessons of sharing, being creative with whatever resources were available, understanding that different gifts, different opinions, don’t have to divide people, and finding joy and delight in simply helping others. The foundation of all these learnings was the love of her parents, her family, and the God she came to know and deeply trust. It was that love which drew Mary Elizabeth into, and forever linked her to, the hearts of those she met wherever she went, especially those of her young students.

Mary Elizabeth was a gifted educator for over sixty-one years, serving as a teacher, primary coordinator, and principal in schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina, though, speaking as someone totally unbiased, I’m pretty sure she had an especially soft spot in her heart for her years at Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse, her home. Teaching was clearly Mary Elizabeth’s great love and passion. In the classroom, as we heard during yesterday’s remembrance service, she was a natural: kind, inspiring, creative, and dedicated. She spent hours decorating her classroom for every season and holiday throughout the year in order to create a welcoming and joyful environment for her students. She saw the classroom experience not only as a place where her young students could grow in knowledge and skills, but where, through example, the kindness, compassion, and love of God could be sown as well. Mary Elizabeth was one of the best I know at giving that example every day. She was a gifted reading teacher, and when students were having trouble with math, she would spent extra time helping them with reading because she said that was the real problem. Once they learned to read, sure enough, they could do the math. She cared deeply about her students and enjoyed getting to know each of them and letting them get to know her.

For Mary Elizabeth, teaching was not a job; it was a joy. When she knew it was time for her to leave the daily classroom schedule, she immediately planned and established the IHM Educational Center at Most Holy Rosary to provide after school tutoring for children. She spent three afternoons every week and Saturday mornings there during the school year and then supervised a summer school program for the children. So much for slowing down!

We rejoice in the gift of Mary Elizabeth’s life with us. Her openness of heart, integrity, and witty presence immediately brightened every room she entered and her laugh was contagious. Her life was a visible witness to her trust and great gratitude for all that God gave her. In her prayer book, we found this well-worn, hand-written prayer: “Dear Jesus, help me to be ready for the surprises You have prepared for me.” I’m sure the prayer was part of her daily routine, but I know that she surely relished the many ways she surprised and brought joy to us with her talents and thoughtfulness. Her decorating talents were not limited to her classroom, for wherever she lived, no holiday or celebration was without her special creative touch. Shortly after she came here to OLP to live, I stopped by her room. She was making favors for the sisters in her 3A Household and had decorations all ready to put out in the dining and sitting rooms. Her joy in doing that for the sisters was infectious. We indeed were blessed in countless ways by the amazing life of this special woman and we are forever grateful to God for her presence in our lives.

Mary Elizabeth’s goodness and faith were rooted in her family. We remember very specially today her parents, Elizabeth and John, her sisters, Jane and Pat, and her brothers, John and Daniel, who greeted her last Saturday with great joy as she entered into the everlasting joy and love of God. For sure, we know that heaven has been completely redecorated by Mary Elizabeth since her arrival last Saturday! We ask God now to fill with hope and peace the hearts of her sister, Theresa, her brothers, Dave, Ray, and Ed, and Marsha, Jen, Cindy, and their extended families, her IHM friends, the sisters, staff, and administrators here at OLP, and all who were the recipients of Mary Elizabeth’s great-hearted love.

When the faculty of a school in which Mary Elizabeth taught learned that she was being transferred to another school, they wrote to express their love and appreciation for her. Their words those many years ago very much echo our own thoughts today: “So we shall miss Sister’s dedication and joyous spirit and her many other gifts. Though we extend her many blessings and best wishes as she leaves us for her next assignment, we cannot help but feel a deep sense of loss. Our consolation rests in knowing that her spirit, her lessons, will long remain here with us.” May that be our prayer today as well.

I now invite Ray and Dave to place the scriptures on Mary Elizabeth’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 Mary Elizabeth home.

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