In Memory

Sister Theresa Fitzgerald, IHM

September 5, 1932 – February 8, 2021

Sister Theresa Fitzgerald, IHM, (formerly known as Sister Mary Lena) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Monday, February 8, 2021, at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA.

She was born on September 5, 1932, in Dushore, PA. She was the daughter of the late James and Lena Stiff Fitzgerald. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1950, made temporary profession of her vows on August 2, 1953, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1956.

Sister Theresa served as a teacher in the following schools: St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 1953 to 1954; St. Ambrose Elementary School in Bridgeport, CT, from 1954 to 1963; St. Rita Elementary School in Dundalk, MD, from 1963 to 1968; St. Ephrem Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY, from 1970 to 1976; Holy Rosary Elementary School in Scranton, PA, from 1976 to 1979; Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport, PA, from 1979 to 1984; and Archbishop Neale Elementary School in La Plata, MD, from 1984 to 1985. Sister also served as a teacher and library assistant at St. Agnes Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, from 1994 to 2004.

Sister served as principal at St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 1968 to 1970.

Sister Theresa also served as assistant registrar at Marywood College in Scranton, PA, from 1985 to 1994; and accounting assistant in the Business Office at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2004 to 2013. Sister was a volunteer and also an Educational Enrichment Institute instructor at the IHM Center in Scranton, PA, from 2013 to 2014.

From 2014 until the time of her death, Sister Theresa was a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree both in elementary education from Marywood College.

She is preceded in death by seven brothers, William, Joseph, James, Edward, Paul, Patrick, and Peter, and two sisters, Catherine Muller and Helen Tourscher.

She is survived by a sister, Cecilia Lapinsky of Wilmington, NC, a brother-in-law, Francis Tourscher, four sisters-in-law, Carleen Fitzgerald, Melinda Fitzgerald, Donna Fitzgerald, and Dorothy Fitzgerald, nieces and nephews; and grandnieces and grandnephews. 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.

Funeral link:

Combined Vespers Prayer Service:

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

Sister Theresa Fitzgerald, IHM

Reflection given by Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM Congregation President, at Sister’s funeral on Thursday, February 11, 2021:

Life is a gift of nature
but beautiful living is a gift of wisdom.
Malawiian Proverb

In these past few days, as we reminisced about Theresa, I think this proverb from the East African country of Malawi reflects the essence of why Theresa meant so much to us: it was easy to see in her a wisdom that showed itself in her humility, acceptance of others, and kindness. Her
joyful and welcoming spirit came from her deep inner trust and faith in a God she loved unreservedly and who she, in her humility, knew loved her
in the same way. Theresa blessed us and lifted us Godward through her quiet goodness while at the same time revealing her own inner beauty. We
were so often the recipients of her kindness and graciousness, her generosity and compassion, her gentle humor and welcoming smile. Her presence
radiated peacefulness which reassured us and blessed us.

We are grateful for Theresa’s years of dedicated service as a teacher and principal in elementary and high schools in New York, Connecticut,
Maryland, and Pennsylvania. She was a superb math teacher who really enjoyed her interactions with her students while also challenging them to be and do their best. They respected the way she treated each of them with understanding and fairness. It was said that Theresa never had to raise her voice in the classroom, because the students quickly got her message just from her quiet and steady gaze at them. (I’m pretty sure it was a mild version of the famous ‘nun stare’). The students respected her as she respected them. Her kindness, expertise, and caring brightened the lives of faculty and staff as well. She brought those same gifts and warm presence to Marywood College where she served nine years as assistant registrar and later to our Business Office at the IHM Center when she became an accounting assistant. Theresa also volunteered as a math instructor at our IHM Educational Enrichment Institute before moving to Our Lady of Peace as a prayer minister for the last seven years.

A life-long learner, Theresa loved to read. Here at OLP she could be found in her local community room every day, reading the newspaper from cover to cover and then immersing herself in one of the several books she kept on her walker. She always had a quiet greeting for everyone who walked by, followed by that big, warm smile. To be sure, Theresa was not much of a talker, but her very presence invited and engaged others probably more eloquently than words. She was a wonderful listener and what a great gift that was, especially in our world today.

So we celebrate this special woman today as a blessing in so many ways. The name Theresa means “diligent harvester” and those words certainly
capture her spirit of dedication and caring for those she met throughout her life. She never sought the limelight, as we know, but neither did she ever retreat from her life-long faithfulness to bringing God’s love to others. The strength of that dedication rested on Theresa’s deep trust in and love for God which gave her a wisdom far beyond any earthly knowledge.. Her gratitude to God and others was uplifting. She never complained, even recently when her illness left her bed-ridden. When asked how she was, her standard answer: “I’m doing all right, thank you.” We have indeed been blessed by Theresa’s presence among us; surely she was an example of the Malawiian proverb called “beautiful living” for all of us.

Theresa cherished her family. We delight today in imagining the joyful reunion this past Monday with her parents, Lena and James, her two sisters, Catherine and Helen, and her seven brothers, William, Joseph, James, Edward, Paul, Patrick, and Peter in the presence of the God who called her home. For sure, Theresa’s bright smile lit up heaven at that meeting!

We pray especially today for her sister, Cecilia Lapinsky, brother-in-law, Francis Tourscher; sisters-in-law, Carleen Fitzgerald, Melinda Fitzgerald, Donna Fitzgerald, and Dorothy Fitzgerald, nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. She will be missed by her IHM sisters, especially those who lived with her in 3B here at OLP, and all those who shared life with Theresa.

Poet John O’Donohue wrote the following wonderful blessing about the wisdom of letting one’s life and work be guided by one’s soul. I think it captures how Theresa sought to live her life and is a call to each of us to strive to do the same.

May the light of your soul guide you;
May the light of your soul bless the work you do
with the… love and warmth of your heart;
May you see in what you do the
beauty of your own soul;
May the sacredness of your work bring healing,
light and renewal to those who work with you and
to those who see and receive your work…
May the day never burden;
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled;
May you go into the night blessed.

To Bless the Space Between Us
by John O’Donohue

Indeed, she did go home to God blessed, and left us unforgettable blessings and lessons.

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

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