In Memory

Sister Sarah Landis, IHM

February 10, 1948 – January 17, 2019

Sister Sarah Landis, IHM, of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Thursday, January 17, 2019, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She was born on February 10, 1948, in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and given the name Mary Charlene. She was the daughter of Charles Landis and the late Nancy Messina Landis. She entered the Sisters of Christian Charity Congregation on September 4, 1966 and made her temporary profession of vows on August 21, 1969 and her final profession of vows on November 14, 1971. She joined the IHM Congregation in Scranton, PA, on September 3, 1977.

Sister Sarah served as a teacher in the following schools: St. Joseph Elementary School in Jim Thorpe, PA, from 1972 to 1974; St. Patrick School in Chatham, NJ, from 1974 to 1975; Immaculate Conception School in Bronx, NY, from 1975 to 1976; St. Jude School in Mountaintop, PA, from 1976 to 1977; and Notre Dame High School in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1977 to 1981.

She also served as a campus minister at East Stroudsburg State College in East Stroudsburg, PA, from 1978 to 1981; Mansfield State College in Mansfield, PA, from 1981 to 1984; director of campus ministry at Mansfield State College in Mansfield, PA, from 1984 to 1991; director of campus ministry at Keystone College in LaPlume, PA, from 1991 to 1996; director of campus ministry at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA, from 1996 to 2000. She was Scranton Diocesan director of campus ministry from 1989 to 1996.

Sister Sarah also served as region clinician at Key Program in North Grafton, MA, from 2000 to 2002; therapist at Tri-County Human Services in Honesdale, PA, from 2002 to 2004; therapist at Children’s Services in Wilkes-Barre, PA, from 2004 to 2005; mental health professional at Friendship House in Scranton, PA, from 2005 to 2006; behavior specialist consultant at Community Counseling Services in Wilkes-Barre, PA, from 2006 to 2010; administrative director at Advanced Psychological and Counseling Services at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, PA, from 2011 to 2013; mental health consultant at Luzerne County Head Start in Wilkes-Bare, PA, from 2013 to 2018; and therapist at Tiffany Griffiths and Associates in Exeter, PA, from 2013 to 2017.

From 2018 until the time of her death, Sister Sarah served as a pastoral counselor and therapist for the Pittston Deanery at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Swoyersville, PA.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science from Marillac College, a Master of Science degree in theology and a Master of Arts degree in counseling both from Marywood College.

She is survived by her father, Charles, of Pittston, PA; a brother, Michael and his wife Cathy of Sarasota, FL; a brother, Charles (Skip) and his wife Kelly of Gresham, OR; a sister, Maria Dorton and her husband, Keith, of Falls, PA; and a sister, Catherine Durkin and her husband, Joseph, of Lake Mary, FL; nieces and nephews; grandnieces and grandnephews. She is also survived by the members of the IHM Congregation.

The funeral will be Tuesday, January 22, at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at the IHM Center, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Friends may call at the IHM Center on Monday, January 21 between 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:00 p.m. Interment will be at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, PA, at a later date.

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 2019 issue

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President

Sister Sarah Landis, Funeral January 22, 2019

The poet, John O’Donohue, wrote the following:

Though we need to weep your loss,
you dwell in that safe place in our
hearts where no storm or night or
pain can reach you…
Let us not look for you [now] only
in memory, where we would grow
lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in
presence, beside us when beauty
brightens, when kindness glows
and music echoes eternal tones.

Extracted from John O’Donohue “On the Death of the Beloved

As I reflect about Sarah and what her life meant to all of us, I think these words of O’Donohue capture perfectly her spirit and her deep, unshakable faith. She truly lived the resurrection promise each day of her life. When her doctor met with her to explain how serious her diagnosis was and her limited treatment options, he asked her if she had any questions or concerns. She answered, “I’m not worried. I know where I’m going and I know who’s waiting for me when I arrive.” Now, most of you know how much Sarah loved dogs, especially her Tessa, who died a few years ago, so when she said those words, we weren’t totally sure if she was thinking about meeting Jesus first, then Tessa, or the other way around! This morning, my friends though our hearts are saddened by the abrupt loss of such a vibrant influence among us, we gather in hope as a community of believers because our faith and the life of this special woman show us how.

Yesterday at our prayer service for Sarah, and again this morning, many have shared some wonderful moments about how she touched their lives through her simple yet profound goodness. That sharing and prayer draws our individual memories into a collective one that comforts and strengthens us, and also gives us a window to see beyond our own sorrow to the beauty and inspiration that Sarah was for so many. Her example encourages us to practice with deeper awareness those simple acts of kindness, respect, and love that can make a real difference in one another’s lives.

I mentioned yesterday that when I thought of Sarah, I was struck by two things in particular. One was the variety and number of connections she had in her life. Our relationships tell the story of our lives, I believe, and Sarah was a high relator. During her almost fifty years of religious life, she witnessed her relationship with God and with others in countless ways. She ministered as an educator, a campus minister and director of campus ministry, a behavioral support clinician, a therapist, and a pastoral counselor/director in schools, university campuses, public and private community social service agencies, and parishes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. In each place of ministry, she left a legacy of professionalism, caring, and generous commitment. So many, from grade school children to senior citizens, were the recipients of her deep faith, ready generosity, and gentle compassion. She valued people as sacred gifts in her life.

Sarah was a care-giver in the truest sense of that word. No effort was too much, and that was especially true for her family, who were so special to her. She was the oldest of the siblings and she saw herself as the organizer and the planner for her family. She relished that role and valued those traits in her other relationships. Mike, as next in line, I’m not sure if you’ve read Sarah’s instruction booklet for being the oldest, and no pressure, but you know she’ll be watching you – just saying! Sarah was also a doer who was joyful, resilient, and creative. She had the knack of engaging all, friend or stranger, in conversation that would leave an indelible mark on each person. She was, as one of her friends described her, very comfortable in her own skin, and that comfort transferred instantly to those who met her. Her circle of relationships just kept getting wider and she treasured her connections for the life and joy she both gave and received from them. She taught us about the deep value of love for others not just through words, but through her actions each day.

The other thing that struck me about Sarah was the depth and richness of her relationship with God, to which all who knew her can readily attest. She spoke easily about her own spirituality and her love and trust in God not in a sermonizing or intellectual way, but in a personal way that touched us deeply and invited that same deep faith and trust in us. Through the ups and downs of her own life, I think Sarah understood suffering and need in others perhaps better than most, and through her own faith, was able to reach out to others. Her love of and trust in God is what sustained and carried her each day, especially during the last two weeks, and enabled her to live the mystery of that deep faith with a strength that continues to sustain each of us during these days.

So we rejoice today that Sarah is now at home with her God and enjoying eternal life with her mother, Nancy, her nephew, Matthew, and other family members who preceded her in death. We join our prayers with Sarah’s beloved family, especially her father, Charles, her sisters and brothers, and all her extended family members, her IHM family, Monsignor Bendik and her many dear friends, and all who knew her.

The following is part of a poem written by Mary Oliver expressing her thoughts about how she hoped to approach the idea of death. Mary coincidentally died last Thursday, the same day as Sarah. I think these words express Sarah’s view of how she wanted to have lived her own life, and truly how she did live it.

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

I want to step through the door full of
curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage
of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than
an idea, and I consider eternity as
another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower,
as common as a field daisy, and as
singular. . .
When it’s over, I want to say all my
life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking
the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something
particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing
and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having
visited this world.

Rest assured, Sarah, none of us has any doubt that your life was indeed something very particular and real and special, and you were never a mere visitor anywhere you went. You were fully alive and fully invested in all around you and we have been blessed by your presence among us.

I now ask Sarah’s father, Charles, to place the scriptures on her casket,for Sarah heard the Word of God; indeed, she staked her life upon it, and received life to the full… the Word now beckons her home.

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