In Memory

Sister Mary Joan Kelleher, IHM

September 11, 1919 – June 10, 2015

Sister Mary Joan Kelleher, IHM, (formerly known as Sister M. Madeleva) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on September 11, 1919, in Scranton, PA, and was the daughter of the late Dennis J. and Helen “Nellie” Healey Kelleher. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1937, made temporary profession of her vows on May 7, 1940, and final profession of her vows on August 1, 1943.

Sister Mary Joan served as a teacher at the following schools: St. Rita Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1940 to 1956; St. John High School in Pittston, PA, from 1956 to 1958; Marywood Seminary High School in Scranton, PA, from 1956 to 1967; St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, NY, from 1971 to 1972; Bishop Hannon High School in Scranton, PA, from 1972 to 1975; and Holy Rosary Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1975 to 1977.

Sister Mary Joan served as principal at Pocono Central Catholic High School in Cresco, PA, from 1967 to 1971.

Sister also served on the faculty in the Education Department at Marywood College in Scranton, PA, as reading specialist from 1977 to 1981; director of the reading program, from 1981 to 1983; and director of the graduate reading program, from 1983 to 1995.

At the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, Sister Mary Joan served as an instructor at Educational Enrichment Institute, from 1995 to 1999; and library coordinator, from 1999 to 2007.

From 2007 until the time of her death, Sister Mary Joan served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Marywood College, a Master of Arts degree in Latin from Villanova University, and a Master of Science degree in reading from the University of Scranton.

She was preceded in death by three brothers, Vincent, John, and William, and a sister, Margaret Weisenberg.

She is survived by a sister, Catherine McGee of Scranton, PA, nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews, and by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Saturday, June 13, at 9:00 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 Friday, June 12, between 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 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, Fall 2015 issue

When I was contemplating how best to begin an appreciation of Sister Mary Joan Kelleher, the first two sentences that came to mind were, “Love is gentle. Love is kind.” I would want, now, to add that love is unassuming and filled with grace.

Sister Mary Joan was “Sister Madeleva” when I transferred to Marywood Seminary in 1962. As our homeroom teacher, she also taught us religion, but her primary responsibility was to lead us through the declensions and other mysteries of Latin. I look back on those classes now with a sense of wonder that we did not hate that d-e-a-d l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e. But Sister Mary Joan had a wonderful sense of humor, and she let us make it fun. My classmates liked to “surprise” her with impromptu “Latin parties” particularly on the Ides of March, when we serenaded her every year about the fate of poor Julius Caesar: “He wanted a crown…so they put him down…on the Ides, the Ides of March, the Ides of March…the…Ides…of…Ma-a-a-arch…”

What we students failed to recognize then, of course, was that Sister Mary Joan was a first-rate teacher as well as a first-rate intellectual. She was wise and unassuming enough to understand that it was beyond us to appreciate her fully—we were too absorbed in our own individual journeys into adulthood. But through those crucial high school years, she was a role model of disinterested kindness and quiet compassion–and of the mild amusement that was her hallmark.

She was the moderator of the debate and forensics clubs, and under her wing we odd-ball debaters and budding writers thrived, talking up a storm at local diocesan tournaments and on road trips to New York and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Those adventures gave us poise and self-confidence, and I know they prepared me for the professional life I went on to live as a journalist.

When I visited her after her stroke, she did not always remember me. The last day I saw her, she was sitting watching television with another sister when I came in to say hello. She didn’t know me. But I told her she had been my teacher at the Seminary. Yes, she remembered those days. I told her she had been a great teacher, a wonderful teacher.

She grew very still after I said that, and then she looked up at me with a fierceness I had never seen in her before. “I loved those girls,” she said. It was my great privilege to tell her that we had loved her, too.

by Ellen M. O’Brien

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