The death occurred recently of Sister Marian Hankard OLA, formerly of Bartlemy, Co. Cork.
Sr Marian had spent 64 years with the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles. She worked as a nurse, midwife, chiropodist, reflexologist and administrator in different parts of the world.
In recent years her life completed the full circle as she was back in her beloved Ardfoyle Convent in Cork city where her Missionary journey had begun.
Mary Hankard was one of six children born in Bartlemy to Hannie and Jim Hankard, she was predeceased by her brother John and sisters Eily, Biddy, Joan and Betty.
Born on January the 21st 1931 Mary along with her siblings attended the local National School where Donal Scannell from Ballingeary was the Principal. Coincidentally the next name to Mary Hankard's in the Bartlemy NS Register was that of Mary Gubbins of Keame who died just four days after Sr. Marian.
Having finished her primary education in 1946 Mary worked in Cork for a few years. In 1953 at the age of 22, Mary Hankard wrote to the Revd. Mother of the OLA Community in Ardfoyle stating she had a great desire to be a missionary nun and begging the Rev Mother to accept her as a postulant.
The OLA order was founded in France by Fr Augustine Planque in 1876 with a vision of being of service to the Gospel especially with the people of Africa. So in the autumn of 1953, the girl from Bartlemy entered Ardfoyle.
Three years later in 1956, the year her father Jim died, Mary made her first profession. She worked initially in the SMA house at Cloughballymore in Galway before moving to the OLA house in London where she also worked in the Community's hostel.
Mary took her final vows in 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council commenced, taking Marian as her name in Religion. Sr. Marian then continued her studies qualifying as a nurse and then a midwife.
In 1965 Mary's mother Hannie (nee Murley) died and two years later Sr Marian Hankard bade farewell to Bartlemy, Ardfoyle and Ireland as she set out for Asikuma in Ghana.
In 1969 she returned to London to complete a diploma course in Tropical Nursing before going back to the African Mission Fields in 1972. In Ghana in 1977, she met Fr Gus O Driscoll SMA, a native of her home parish.
Fr. Gus was a Missionary Priest in Ghana at that time. It was he that led a large gathering of SMA priests in celebrating Sr Marian's Requiem Mass in Ardfoyle. In his Homily, Fr Gus recalled laughingly that on one occasion when Sr Marian was coming to visit his Mission station in Ghana Solomon, his cook, decided to pull out all the stops in catering for this special guest.
He made jelly as a special treat but in 33 degrees of heat and with no proper fridge there was a problem keeping to jelly from melting! Using his wisdom Solomon took the jelly and cycled several miles to a house with a working fridge. On the morning of Sr. Marian's visit the jelly was returned once more via bicycle!
In 1982 Sr Marian went to Nigeria where she spent the next seven years. She returned to Ireland due to health reasons in 1989. Though nearly sixty years old at this stage thoughts of retirement were never on her agenda. She displayed her versatility by getting deeply involved with both reflexology and later chiropody.
Her smile and cheerful disposition endeared her to all she met. Her strong faith and deep trust in God were the hallmarks of her religious life. Though small in stature Sr Marian was big in heart and her generosity was based on the true giving spirit that is the very essence of Christianity.
Though in declining health she never complained and was still very involved in all aspects of OLA life as Sr Kathleen McGarvey, OLA Provincial Leader said at the Requiem Mass. The OLA leader opened her words of welcome as follows:
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.
The Requiem Mass for Sr. Marian was truly a joyous celebration of a life well lived. For almost 87 years she gave of herself selflessly to others. Her own Hankard family were joined by many OLA sisters and SMA fathers and neighbours from Bartlemy in a wonderful tribute to a great woman.
May her gentle soul rest in peace.