On Sunday, 10th January 2021, there was deep sadness among St. John of God Sisters, when news filtered through to the communities that Sr. Anne Harpur had been called home to God. Though Anne had not been well for a few weeks, her death came unexpectedly and was a shock to her family, to the Sisters and to all who knew her.
Anne, who hailed from Busherstown, Duncormick, Co. Wexford was one of twelve children born to Edward and Anastasia Harpur (nee Culleton). She attended the local Primary School in Tullycanna and later the Vocational School in Ballymitty. The family treasure some of her needlecraft from that time – a reminder of Anne’s many hidden gifts. During those growing-up years, Anne suffered the loss of some siblings through death. Two of her older sisters joined the Sacred Heart of Mary Congregation in the United States, and so when Anne expressed an interest in religious life, her parents, having parted with so many of their children, were keen that she would remain in Ireland. Sr. Elizabeth Flynn, a cousin, was influential in pointing her towards the Sisters of St. John of God. She entered the Novitiate in Spawell Road, Wexford in April 1955, and was professed in May 1958. She was known within the Congregation as Sr. Attracta, until post Vatican II, when many Sisters reverted to their Baptismal names.
Following Profession Anne trained in Nursing and Midwifery and later pursued Clinical Pastoral Education in Rhode Island, U.S.A. A committed, compassionate and caring nurse she ministered in Wexford, Ely, Daisy Hill Newry and Maypark Hospitals and in the Irish College, Rome. She also served in Social Services in Rathdowney and in Chaplaincy in Courtenay Hill Hospice, Newry. Anne was always available for whatever she believed was God’s call and this led her to say a generous ‘Yes’ to several leadership roles within the Congregation. She often found those roles challenging, but her integrity, love and respect for the Sisters, were beyond question. She cared for each one, especially those who were frail, with endless kindness, gentleness and sensitivity. Those who lived with her over the years carry great memories of her patient work, listening presence and most importantly her sense of fun – she loved to tell a good story, often at her own expense!
Anne’s final years of ministry were in Ballyvaloo Retreat Centre, where she maintained a gracious and welcoming presence for all who visited there. She loved nature and in Ballyvaloo she had the perfect setting in which to observe and enjoy the new life of spring, the colour of summer, the fruitfulness of autumn and the contemplative stillness of winter. Each season nourished her spirit.
Anne’s niece Stasia and nephew Jim provided the music for her Requiem Mass, which was celebrated in Ballyvaloo by V. Rev. Brendan Nolan P.P. Blackwater, after which she was brought to her final resting place in the Convent Cemetery in Newtown Rd., Wexford. Because of Covid restrictions numbers attending were limited.
Anne is survived by her brother John and his wife Chris, by her nieces and nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, Sisters of St. John of God, extended family and many friends.
Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas siorai da hanam dilis