Sister Imelda Marie Salzbach, MM

Born: December 23, 1906
Entered: October 15, 1929
Died: April 17, 1994

Today, we gather to celebrate the liturgy of the resurrection for Sr. Imelda Marie Salzback, commonly known to many of us as “Blessed Imelda”. Our Blessed Imelda was last admitted to Phelps Memorial Hospital on April 16th, and there she died at 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 17th, the third Sunday of Easter. She was 87 years of age.

Anne Marie Salzback was born on December 23, 1906 in Newark, New Jersey to Charles Louis Salzback and Josephine Baerenback. She had one brother and three sisters, none of whom survive. She had great affection for her family – her nieces and nephews, many of whom are here with us today.

Imelda Marie attended Central High School in her home town and became interested in overseas mission after she did studies at Drake Business School and Newark College of Music and worked as supervisor of the Bookkeeping Dept. of the Newark Telephone Company for several years. At 23, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and in later years, attended Mary Rogers College. She also had continuing education at the Catholic University of Hawaii, Chaminade College in Honolulu, and the University of Hawaii.

Imelda Marie was a recent convert to the Catholic Church when she joined Maryknoll on October 15, 1929. She made her First Profession on January 6, 1932 and Final Vows on January 6, 1935 at the Center. She wished to become a Religious “to save souls to make others love our dear Lord as I do”.

Imelda Marie’s ministry was mostly to young people in Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Tucson, Arizona; Kaneohe, on the windward side of Oahu; Wailuku, in Maui; Kalihi Kai, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and finally, here at the Center helping out in Treasury part time from 1977 to 1987. She taught grades 1 and 2, 7 and 8, and did remedial work and tutoring in Primary School. Her first assignment in 1936 was to teach among children of Japanese immigrants in both Los Angeles and Seattle. In Hawaii, she taught school for 31 years, among children of Asian ancestry and said this about the meaning of life:

“I like to think of myself as a bridge, a span that little children might use as one of the crossings on their way to Eternity.”

Blessed Imelda was a warm, friendly, and outgoing person. She had a good sense of humor and appreciated it in others. She said, humor “does much to the cockles of the heart”. As a Maryknoll Sister, she is remembered by friends as dedicated and committed, a woman of integrity. She loved music and played the piano. Last Thursday, before she died, Nadine Tierney and Margaret Mary Bradley were in her room dancing, “Hello, Dolly” while she sang along with them. She was a real fun person. She was also a staunch Democrat. Story goes that when John F. Kennedy won the Presidential election in 1960, Imelda Marie hosted a party to celebrate the winner.

Sr. Esther Donovan, remembers their Novitiate days when she would mention and pray to Blessed Imelda often. Later, other Sisters called her ‘Blessed Imelda’ and the name stuck. It was used by Mother Mary Coleman in a letter in 1966 to her alluding to it that “it would be good if more people would make use of your invocation”. In the same letter, Mother addressed her as Reverend and Blessed Imelda and went on to say, “How uncommonly favored I am to have received a communication from the courts of the Blessed -that lofty place a way off there somewhere; or is it right here all around us, the Elysian Fields that we dream about, invisible, untouchable…?”

This dream has now ceased and has become reality for Sr. Imelda Marie as she joins Mother Mary Coleman and the rest of our deceased Maryknoll family in the courts of the Blessed. She heard the invitation to come into God’s embrace and responded heartily. Margaret Mary Bradley was with her at Phelps Hospital several hours before her death and heard her whispering, “I am coming, I am coming; come to me, dear Jesus.” This reminds us of Julian of Norwich of the 14th Century who wrote: “Until I am essentially united with God, I can never have full rest or real happiness.”

We welcome our brother, Father Gerry McCrane, who will lead us in this Eucharistic celebration. We also welcome her nieces and nephews, all of whom have come to join us in this celebration of Aunt Anne’s new life.

With Imelda Marie, and at her request, let’s echo her thanks to God “for giving me my Maryknoll vocation and for His loving care and patience”.