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Spokane nun who spent 55 years in service of others dies on Christmas Day

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 27, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

Sister Celine Steinberger, a Catholic nun who led many fundraising efforts and was a friend to all who knew her, died on Christmas Day following a short illness. She was 75.

Steinberger spent 55 years as a nun, including several years as a teacher and principal at an elementary school in Edmonds, Washington.

Originally of Seattle, Steinberger had long worked at the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary convent near Spokane Falls Community College.

“She was a lady of grace,” Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad said. “She had a fascinating way of relating with people that was very respectful and loving. She was a great witness in the community.”

Retired Sister Shirley Roberg said she’d known and worked with Steinberger for decades.

“Every person she met, she really truly met,” Roberg said. “She could come back from an airplane trip to Seattle and she would say, ‘Oh, I met the nicest lady next to me’ and she would send her a note.

“I could go on a plane and read a book. Not Celine. She would engage with every person she met.”

If the sisters or the diocese organized a fundraiser for a particular project, Steinberger, who worked as development director, would lead the effort.

“She had connections. She knew how to get things done,” Roberg said. “If you needed anything, call Celine.”

Steinberger always made time for others, regardless of their religious affiliations.

“This woman has given everything,” Roberg said. “She was one of the most generous persons I knew. She always answered the call. She was a great model for us.”

Steinberger loved the occasional dinner at Clinkerdagger Restaurant and would remember to send hundreds of personal messages.

“I would always get a note from her on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Skylstad said. “She was always so good that way. Her loss came so suddenly. It just shocked everyone. It’s very much a loss to this community and to her own religious community.”

Sister Mary Ann Farley lived with Steinberger and stayed by her side during the past few days after she battled the pneumonia that led to her death.

“I guess the most honest thing I can say about her was that she was a friend,” Farley said. “Everyone who knows her would say that.”

Services have not yet been finalized.

“One of the things that totally delighted her was that her father was totally German and her mother was 100 percent Italian,” Farley said. “She always felt that she inherited the best qualities that both exemplified.”

During her final days, Farley kept a list of people who came by to pay their last respects. The list was pages long.

“We talk about how loving she was and all those other pieces and they are true,” Farley said, “but she was a powerfully competent professional woman.”

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