Margaret Mary Keaveny was the oldest of eight children born on May 26, 1920 to Thomas and Sabina Keaveny in Glenmaddy, County Galway, Ireland. She had three brothers: Malachy, John and Thomas. Her four sisters were: Ann, Mary, Sabina and Teresa. Margaret was educated at St. Joseph Girls School in Glenmaddy until, at age 15, she was accepted on August 2, 1935 as the first affiliate in the newly opened aspirancy for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark in Cabra, County Down, Ireland. After eight months, Margaret traveled to Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in the US to start her training as a postulant with the sisters. On September 8, 1936, Margaret Mary Keaveny received the religious habit and was given the name Sister Mary Jeanne Celeste. Her two year education program continued at St. Michael Novitiate in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and on September 8, 1938, Sister Jeanne Celeste pronounced her First Vows.
Following First Profession, Sister Jeanne Celeste served as teacher and then administrator (from 1938 to 1962) at St. Luke School, Hohokus, NJ, St. James School, Penns Grove, NJ and St. Genevieve School in Van Nuys, California. During these years, she also earned a BA in Education from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ and an MA degree in Education from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania. In 1962, Sr. Jeanne Celeste was appointed Provincial Superior of the Sisters in St. Joseph Province. She held this office until 1968. Sister Jeanne (she no longer used her second name) then became Coordinator for Religious Studies at Sacred Heart Parish in Lyndhurst, NJ. In 1974, she founded the Peace and Justice Center at Englewood Cliffs College. She served the Intercommunity Center for Justice and Peace in New York City. Her later ministries included counseling and chaplaincy services at St. Francis Hospital, Jersey City, NJ, Rachel House in Washington, DC and Suburban Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.
Sister Jeanne's openness to all things new inspired outstanding leadership and commitment to each of her ministries. This was strengthened with her pledge "to try to act justly in the spirit of the gospel of peace." Sr. Jeanne was supported and assisted in her ministries and later retirement by her friend and co-worker Sister Dorothy Vidulich. Following a series of medical problems, including hospitalizations, Sister Jeanne was moved in 2004 to the infirmary at St. Michael Villa in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. While living at St. Michael's, she was often seriously ill, but would recover. Sister Jeanne was very aware of the world around her. She read newspapers, magazines, and the newest books. She looked at the news hour television programs and political news reports on Sunday mornings. Sister Jeanne contributed to discussions on local and political events, as well as CSJP developments. Early in October, 2015, she became ill and started a serious decline. On October 12th, 2015, Sister Jeanne Keaveny died surrounded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Her funeral Mass was offered by Father James McDonald in the St. Michael Villa chapel. In accordance with Sister Jeanne's request, cremation followed.
Sister Jeanne was survived by her sister Sabrina and brother-in-law John Lynch of South Nyack, NY. Her brother Thomas and sister-in-law Carmel Keaveny of Genmaddy, County Galway, Ireland.
"We are consciously choosing to shape the future rather than allowing the future to shape us."
Sheila Lemieux, CSJP