RIP Sr. Marian Hankard

Sr. Marian, who gave many years of missionary service in Nigeria, Ghana, England and Ireland, was called home to God on Wednesday 27th December. Below are some thoughts shared by Sr. Kathleen McGarvey, OLA Provincial Leader, at Sr. Marian's funeral. May she rest in peace.

Sr. Marian Hankard.JPG

RIP Sr. Marian Hankard.


Good afternoon and welcome. We are gathered here today to thank God for the long and fruitful life of Sr Marian Hankard, our Sister, our aunt and our friend, and to bid her farewell. We entrust her to God as she goes to her final resting place to join her parents, her sisters Eily, Brigid, Joan, Betty, and her brother John, and the many other deceased members of her family, friends and OLA Sisters. Marian was the last of her siblings to be called to God so no doubt today they are enjoying a family reunion in heaven.

A special word of welcome today to Sr Marian’s nieces - Betty, Monica, Anne, Martina and Elizabeth, - her nephew Jim, and all other family members and friends who are here with us today. Her sister in law Mary as well as many other nieces and nephews cannot be here but are surely united with us in thought and prayer. Failte to the OLA Sisters, especially those who have come from other communities in Ireland. and to the SMA Fathers who, as always, are here to celebrate with us. A special word of fáilte and thanks to Fr Gus O’Driscoll, our main celebrant who is from Rathcormac, the same parish as Marian.

Sr Marian, baptised Mary, was born in Bartlemy, Rathcormac, Co Cork, way back in January 1931. In a months’ time she would have turned 87. When a Sister dies, I look in their file and in Marian’s file I found the letter she wrote to Ardfoyle at the age of 22 saying she had a great desire to be a missionary nun and begging the Rev Mother to accept her as a postulant! We don’t have too many writing such letters today I’m afraid. Of course we don’t have Rev Mothers either! Religious and missionary life has greatly changed since 1953, when Marian wrote her letter.

Over the years in the OLA congregation Marian saw many great changes. Because of the many changes she saw in religious life and the few younger members nowadays in Ireland, Marian would often say to me ‘We’re finished'! Myself, I admit I feel far from finished and I believe that, while religious life must continue to change in accordance with the signs and needs of our times, the call to give one’s life to God and to Gods service in the world is still beautiful and still valid. We hope that the story of the life of Sr Marian, and of so many other great women like her, will be told and will inspire young people in Ireland today to hear that call anew and to respond generously and selflessly as Marian did.

Marian entered in August 1953 and made her first profession in 1956, consecrating her life to the service of God’s kingdom especially in Africa. She spent the first few months after profession working in the SMA house in Clogh, and then went to London to serve in the OLA community and hostel there. After final profession in 1962, she went for studies and qualified in England as a General Nurse and a Midwife. Finally in 1967 she went to Ghana and worked in Asikuma for two years before coming again to London to do a Diploma in Tropical nursing. In 1972, she returned to Ghana and spent the next ten years there, first in Asikuma and later in Nkwanta hospital, working both as a nurse and as an administrator. In 1982, she went from Ghana to Nigeria and spent the next 17 years there, working in Agbor, Zawan and Abeokuta.

In the past few days I have received many messages of condolence from OLA Sisters in Ghana and Nigeria; the Sisters have very fond memories of Marian, especially many who knew her when they were postulants while Marian worked in the clinic in Agbor. Sr Assumpta, the Nigerian Provincial, sent a letter on behalf of the Province and said that they remember Marian for her mischievous sense of humour and her hard work.

Marian had to return to Ireland in 1989 for health reasons, and she has been here since. First she did a course in reflexology and set up a little service here for the Sisters and the neighbours. I found a letter in her file which she wrote to the Provincial in 1991, saying that while doing reflexology on people’s feet she saw the need to also do chiropody as Sisters and people came with bunions and corns and all kinds of other feet problems. She wanted to set up a clinic where people who had a salary could pay and anyone who had no income could be ministered to for free! Marian was 60 years of age that time. I think this determination to find a field in which she could offer a useful apostolate here in Ireland really speaks of her independent character as well as her apostolic spirit.

She did a diploma in chiropody and opened a clinic out in Passage West where she worked for ten years. She eventually had to give this up for age and health reasons, but has been a vibrant presence here in the Ardfoyle community since then. She loved her independence and it was with a struggle that we convinced her to move to the infirmary just a few months ago. She liked to be able to move around, go into town, go to Knock, go here and there and do her own thing, so she surely found her limited physical abilities very frustrating. The sporadic falls of recent times were not easy for her to cope with and eventually they took their toll so that after just a few weeks of sickness she left us peacefully in CUH on Wednesday morning. She is now surely with God probably having a natter and teasing out with God some of the many questions she liked to ask.

Marian was very much her own person. She loved to smile and laugh and had her own unique sense of humour. She also had great faith. At a Provincial gathering held here in Ardfoyle just in September last, we were all gathered teasing out some difficult questions as we look at our reality and plan for the future; Marian, sitting just inside the door at the back of the hall put up her hand, took the microphone, and told us a long story basically reminding us that no matter what planning we do we must always remember that God is in control, God is alive and active in the world around us, and we must trust in the Lord! As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace on earth this Christmas season, we pray that Marian may be rewarded for her faith and her determined spirit, and may know in Heaven God’s Peace in a deep and everlasting way.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who cared for Marian: in CUH, Sr Katherine and the House Council here in Ardfoyle, and Sr Lucy and all our infirmary staff. Our thanks also to Sr Marian’s family. Marian truly loved her family, was very proud of you all, and was always filling me in on details about Betty, Joanne, and all the clan. May God reward you for your goodness and grant you the consolation you need. I now hand you over to Fr Gus to lead us in our Eucharist. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.