RIP Sr. Joan Amor


God called Sr. Joan to her eternal rest after many years of missionary service in Nigeria. Below are some thoughts shared by Sr. Kathleen McGarvey, OLA Provincial Leader, at Sr. Joan's funeral. May she rest in peace.

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RIP Sr. Joan Amor.


Good afternoon and welcome. We are gathered here today to thank God for the gift of a great missionary, Sr Joan Amor, and to bid farewell to her as, with faith, we entrust her into her eternal resting place with God. We are indeed sorry to see her go but we thank God for her, and for her long and full life. Here with us today are Sr Joan’s nephews, Francis and Robert, and her grandnephew Patrick. I know that Joan loved you, was so proud of you, loved to talk about you and share your photos. Joan has gone now to join your mother Sylvia, your father Tom, your uncle Denis, her parents, as well as all the other beloved members of your family who have gone before us. May they rejoice in heaven and send blessings on us from above. Welcome to all the Religious here present, to the OLA Sisters who have come from other communities in Ireland and to the SMA Fathers who are here in communion with us. Some of Joan’s past pupils from Nigeria may be here and, if so, you are heartily welcome.

Sr Joan is the last of our English Sisters. It seems her great great grandparents were from Sligo so she had some Irish blood as well! Joan was born in Chingford, Essex, way back in 1927. She went to the Dominican Convent High School in Chingford, finished there in 1943 at the age of sixteen, and went on to qualify as a nurse and midwife. Later she qualified as a Tutor with a Midwife Teacher’s Diploma. She worked a while in England and in Canada.

In the early 60s, in her mid-thirties, she felt called to the religious missionary life and came to Ireland, for a short spell as a novice with the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Drogheda. However, this did not work out so after leaving there she went in 1964 as a lay volunteer to the OLA run St Gerard’s hospital in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, where she worked as a nurse, midwife and Tutor. She still felt called to consecrate her life fully to mission in Africa and therefore in 1970 requested to enter with the OLAs. Because she was already 43 years of age special permission was sought and granted. This was just after Vatican II and there were some changes taking place in religious life.

In September 1970, she came back to Ireland to spend a year in the OLA community in Dublin as her period of postulancy, then a year of novitiate, and she made her first profession on the 16th September 1972. She then returned to St Gerard’s Kaduna and worked there as a very well loved and appreciated Tutor until 1988. Then she went to the Sacred Heart Hospital in Abeokuta and worked there again, in charge of the Midwifery school and then as a Tutor in the Nursing School. In 2004 she fell and broke her hip and had to say Goodbye to Nigeria. I know Sr Helena and herself did great things together in Abeokuta during those years and both were and indeed still are sorely missed and very fondly remembered.

The day Joan passed away a post announcing her death was put up on our OLA Facebook page and by this morning it had received over eleven thousand hits! More than we have ever had on any post. So many of Joan’s past pupils in the schools of nursing saw it and shared it and posted some very beautiful comments, all remembering how Joan had touched their lives in very positive ways. For example: “A lady with a beautiful soul, soft spoken, kind hearted. She is a great and intelligent teacher, she inspired us, though she will discipline us she does it with love, a great tutor, Sr Joan your legacy lives on; One told the story of the very compassionate way Joan helped her when news came of her father’s death; another of Joan’s gentle smile and encouragement.

The Province of Nigeria has written a beautiful letter of condolence, sympathizing with all the Sisters of the Province and with the family of Sr. Joan on her passing away. They write: “We celebrate her for her testimony of love in Nigeria and for the myriads of lives that she touched. She is fondly remembered by the Sisters she lived with in Community and by her many past students.” Sr. Josephine Enenmo remarked: “Sr. Joan was dearly loved by all of us at Sacred Heart... Never a harsh word from her but one knew when Sr. Joan was unhappy... No matter the excuse; she made us study. She taught anatomy with passion.” Sr. Lucy Esedebe who lived and worked with Sr. Joan Amor from 1998 to 2004 commented that "another Nightingale has passed on". Lucy remembers her as “gentle, a teacher who taught with such detail that placed her students above their peers. She would not miss her prayer for anything.”

Sr. Helena O’Connell who was with Joan for all her years in Abeokuta, has shared many memories with me and echoed so much said by the others: a gentle, good woman, a great committed very capable Tutor, kind and firm with the students, in her spare time helping the slow students and looking out for the children in the leper camp – making sure their clothes were clean, a wise woman who wouldn’t ‘waste a button’, she loved tennis and swimming, coffee and ice cream!

I know many Sisters here will miss Joan: Helena, Catherine Devane who was with her in Kaduna, Jacinta, and indeed all of us here. There is a lot more we could say about this small little woman with the special hairstyle and lovely cheeky smile, but it is time to continue our Eucharist to bid Joan farewell. Thank you, Sr Joan, for your example; may you rest for ever in the eternal and perfect Communion of God’s love. I thank the Sisters and staff here in Ardfoyle, both in the Infirmary and in the community, who cared for Sr Joan especially during these latter years, months and weeks of gradual but increasing dependency. To Sr Joan’s family, thank you for having supported her during her missionary life and for being faithful to her until the end. May God grant you the consolation you need at this time. Thanks to all involved in today’s liturgy and to the SMA Fathers for their friendship and support always. I hand you over to Fr Tim to lead us in prayer as we entrust Joan back to God.

 

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Mrs Mojisola Durosanya Taiwo on behalf of all students of the Sacred Heart School of Midwifery and Nursing, Abeokuta and Sr Julie Doran pay their respects at the grave of Sr Joan.


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Mrs Mojisola Durosanya Taiwo pictured with her family. She came to Ardfoyle to sympathise with Sr Helena O Connell (pictured) who was then matron of the hospital.