In Memory

Sister Mary Sheehan, IHM

July 13, 1938 – January 22, 2021

Mary Sheehan, IHM

Sister Mary Sheehan, IHM, (formerly known as Sister Maria Fidelis) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Friday, January 22, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She was born on July 13, 1938 in Clover, PA; and given the name Mary Elizabeth. She was the daughter of the late Ernest and Lucy Strittmatter Sheehan. She entered the IHM Congregation on February 2, 1957 and made her temporary profession of vows on August 4, 1959 and her final profession of vows on August 15, 1964.

Sister Mary served as a teacher in the following schools: Cathedral Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1959 to 1960; St. Paul Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1960 to 1962; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Elementary School in Forest Hills, NY, from 1962 to 1965; St. Joseph Elementary School in Renovo, PA, from 1965 to 1967; St. Leo High School in Ashley, PA, from 1967 to 1968; St. Mary High School in Manhasset, NY, from 1968 to 1973; Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1973 to 1974; Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport, PA, from 1974 to 1975; St. Rose High School in Carbondale, PA, from 1975 to 1979; and Maria Regina Diocesan High School in Uniondale, NY, from 1980 to 1984.

Sister also served as coordinator for religious education at St. Patrick’s Parish in Milford, PA, from 1979 to 1980; chaplain and director of pastoral care at Mary Immaculate Hospital and Fitzpatrick Nursing Home in Jamaica, NY, from 1984 to 1991; Catholic chaplain at Butler Memorial Hospital and Sunnyview Nursing Home in Butler, PA, from 1991 to 1999; coordinator for pastoral care and social ministries at Marydale Retirement Village in Newark, DE, from 2000 to 2007; coordinator of caring ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish in York, PA, from 2007 to 2009; support services at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2009 to 2015; and volunteer in Heartworks Gift Boutique at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA, from 2009 to 2015.

From 2015 until the time of her death, Sister Mary served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in science and a Master of Science degree in religious studies from Marywood College, and a Master of Education degree from Virginia State University.

She is preceded in death by a brother, Timothy.

She is survived by a brother, Dennis and his wife, Carole, of Patton, PA; three sisters, Sally Little of Hollidaysburg, PA; Clara Fleitz of Haymarket, VA; and Ann Hepner of Myrtle Beach, SC; nieces and nephews; grandnieces and grandnephews; and 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:

Reprinted from “In Memoriam” section of Journey, Spring 2021 issue

Sister Mary Sheehan, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on Tuesday, January 26, 2021:

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator
for all I have not seen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

These words of Ralph Waldo Emerson speak clearly to me of the deep faith and trust of Mary that formed the foundation of her life from childhood on. We are filled with gratitude today for the gift of this woman who quietly, simply loved God absolutely and went about living that truth with conviction every day. Hers was a spirit whose self-effacing goodness brought joy and comfort to countless students and adults to whom she ministered.

We recall the ways Mary lived and ministered among us as sister, friend, teacher, chaplain, and caregiver. Inspired by a talk given by a missionary priest to her school when she was in seventh grade, Mary had a dream of becoming a missionary herself and ministering in Africa as a religious after high school. But a scholarship offer to nearby St. Francis College put her dream on hold, and during that year, an invitation from her IHM grade school teacher led her to enter the IHM congregation the next year. Though she never got to Africa, Mary did plenty of true missionary work during her sixty-one years as an IHM. She taught science and math in elementary and high schools in New York and throughout Pennsylvania. She loved teaching because, as she wrote, teachers have the opportunity and the responsibility to enlighten students about a world beyond their front doorstep and to show them the value of their faith in action. Her presence and support for her students at their extracurricular activities and sports events demonstrated to them the lessons spoken about in the classroom.

After twenty-five years as a teacher, Mary’s desire to serve the sick and elderly called her to enroll in a chaplaincy training program. After completing the program, she became chaplain and pastoral care coordinator at hospitals and nursing home/retirement centers in Jamaica, NY, Butler, PA and Newark, DE, and at St. Joseph’s parish in York, PA. Writing about her call to pastoral ministry, especially to the ill and elderly, Mary said, “I continue to feel this call to be God’s ambassador to the sick, sharing my sense of God’s presence in all our joys and sorrows, and standing with others as they search out and articulate their own response. My experience is one of being continually surprised and enriched.” Based on the comments made by
those who shared life with Mary, I have no doubt that as Mary found herself enriched by those to whom she ministered, her goodness surely enriched each of them in deep and lasting ways. In 2009 she returned to Scranton and worked as a support services volunteer before moving to Our Lady of Peace as a prayer minister for the last six years.

We rejoice in the gift of Mary’s life to all of us who knew her. She served others with integrity, compassion, and her own goodness, bolstered by a wealth of ministerial experience. Not showy or intrusive, she loved to connect with people in community and in her ministry, to share their story, to learn about what mattered to them. She found joy in helping others and her seemingly small acts of kindness made the day brighter or maybe just more bearable for so many others. Always Mary lived her life from a place of gratefulness, born, I think, from her own understanding of loss and pain. That stance helped others to open their own hearts to God’s healing compassion and trust. Grounded in gospel values, her deep spirituality, caring presence, and service were representative of her faith, values, vision, and profound commitment to God and those with whom she ministered.

We pause this morning to remember Mary’s parents, Lucy and Ernest, and her brother, Timothy, with whom she is celebrating a joyous reunion today in heaven. We pray for all those who will miss her caring presence, especially her sisters, Sally, Clara, and Ann, and her brother, Dennis, and his wife, Carole, her nieces and nephews and their families, all her relatives, the sisters here at OLP, her many IHM friends, and all who knew and loved her. We ask the God of all consolation to comfort us all in this time of loss.

Barbara Brown Taylor, author and theologian, wrote that God’s kingdom comes when we allow our own lives to be grounded in and flow from the heart of Jesus’ teaching of love for others. The possibilities for that to be what compels us to choose how we are to serve others are endless, whether they be big efforts or small acts of kindness. In all instances, when our wills “spill into the will of God,” God’s kingdom occurs. Mary’s life was a clear example of a woman who lived a life dedicated to allowing her will to flow into God’s will. We have been blessed by that life and today Mary surely has her place in God’s eternal kingdom.

Sister Mary Kay will now place the scriptures on Mary’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 her home.

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