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Sisters of the Past

Sister Joan - Evelyn Teresa (Eva) Bagley

Profiled in February 2009

8 February 1897 8 August 1984

joanbagley.jpgEva Bagley was born in Wellington on 8 February 1897 to John Thomas Bagley and Jessie Veronica nee Gaul.  They were married in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch where John worked as a printer.
Eva was one of nine children John, Margaret, Jessie, Edward, then Eva, followed by Augustine, Mary, Kathleen and Patricia.  The family had moved from Christchurch to Wellington where Eva was born, and then on to Mangaweka and Taihape as her father was then working on the Main Trunk Line. Their permanent settlement in Taihape enabled her mother Jessie and her two eldest daughters to run tearooms at the Railway junction.

On 10 June 1918 Eva entered the Sisters of St Joseph and she was professed on 9 March 1921, taking the religious name of Joan.

Sister Joan became an extremely capable junior school teacher, teaching in most of the Josephite schools in the North Island.  Her ministry took her to Sacred Heart and St Mary’s in Whanganui, Hastings, Hawera, Taihape, Otaki, Mairangi Bay in Auckland, and Waipukurau.  Her early days at Sacred Heart in Whanganui were in the boarding school looking after the very young ones whom she mothered and provided with lots of treats. 

Her spirituality and creativity drove her teaching.  To aid her in presenting small children with the Mass, she built a small altar, figures, vestments, and vessels which were then housed in the local parish church in Hastings.  Her practical skills and array of tools also brought about great playthings for children in the playground. In Waipukurau she built the large stone grotto for Mary’s statue.  At the time of the 1931 Napier Earthquake Joan was in Hastings, and with others she helped set up the emergency hospital at the racecourse.


Joan’s talents extended to music which she loved, and she played the mouth-organ and the recorder.  She was skilled at needlework, art and floral decoration.  A good deal of her time was taken mending rosary beads brought to her.
Many the community gathering that was livened up by Joan.  She had an irrepressible sense of fun, and carried round a small notebook full of her favourite jokes.
She was also remembered as being an inveterate collector of things.  Tales abound of clean-ups in community where Joan was ‘rescuing’ as much as was being disposed of. 

But her greatest enjoyment was to be found in the garden.  From her earliest days she loved to lose herself in the garden.  Many are the tales of Joan forgetting the time and the meal she was to prepare. 
In her later years she lived at Nazareth Convent in Whanganui where she enthusiastically prepared the gardens and did what she could for the settling in at the new building.  One day after working hard in a fernery she had established, she said with a big smile, “I’m finished’ to another sister and went upstairs to bed.  She was found later, having died peacefully in her sleep.

Sr Joan’s niece, daughter of her eldest sister Margaret, became a Sister of Compassion and was known as Sister Raymond.  She has since reverted to her baptismal name, Bernadette Mary.  She remembers examples of Sr Joan’s art work all round their home, as well as the little religious items she received from her aunt every birthday.  She and her mother would travel from Taihape to Whanganui to visit in the Christmas holidays when all the Josephite Sisters were home.  

Sister Joan’s Funeral Mass was held at St Mary’s Church and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery. 

Gallery / Whakaahua

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