Mary Irene Lunger, SSJ, age 80, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on February 16, 2016. She was in the 63rd year of her religious life. She was born in Ridgway, Pennsylvania on December 20, 1935, the daughter of the late Irven and Bertha Lunger. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on August 30, 1953 from St. Leo Magnus, Ridgway and professed her final vows on August 15, 1959. Sister Mary Irene celebrated her Diamond Jubilee (60 years) in 2013.

She attended St. Leo’s Elementary School in Ridgway and graduated from St. Leo’s High School in 1953. In 1965, she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Villa Maria College. She also studied at Edinboro University and Gannon College earning additional credits in music and music education. She did advanced independent work in music at the University of Wisconsin in 1970.

Sister Mary Irene just recently retired from active ministry on January 26, 2016 after teaching piano at Villa Maria Elementary school for the last 22 years. She also served as Choir Directress at the school. Earlier in her ministry career, she also taught music at the school and piano and organ at the Villa Maria Conservatory, part of the school at the time.   All told, she served Villa Maria Elementary school for more than 40 years. She also served for 24 years as Assistant Directress of Liturgies for her congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph. Additionally, she taught elementary school music and piano at St. Andrew School in Erie. During that time, she also worked with the children’s choir at St. Paul’s parish and St. Joseph’s Home for Children, both in Erie. She also taught at Sacred Heart, Blessed Sacrament schools in Erie; St. Bernard, Bradford; and St. Leo, Ridgway while teaching piano on a part-time basis.

Sister Mary Irene, along with Sister Joseph John McDonald (dec.), served as a foster mother to infants through Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services for more than 20 years.

On the occasion of her 60th Jubilee in 2013, Sister Mary Irene recalled that it was the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her in elementary and high school who always showed a love and concern for others that she admired and wanted to imitate.

Memorials may be made to the Community Support Fund of the Sisters of St. Joseph.