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Sisters of the Past

Sister Felicitas - Joan Garvey

Profiled in September 2007

22 July 1905 – 6 October 1987

 Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland was the birthplace of Joan Garvey, on 22 July 1905.    Her parents were Ellen and Maurice, and Maurice was a roading contractor.  In 1921, the family emigrated to New Zealand, settling in Hastings, Hawkes Bay.  Joan had two sisters, Kathleen and Molly, and one brother, Maurice.

Joan attended St Joseph’s School in Hastings on her arrival – her first contact with the Sisters of St Joseph.  Then in March 1923, she entered the Sisters’ community in Whanganui.  It is said that she postponed her entry until after the St Patrick’s night concert in Hastings where she could dance the Irish jig for what she mistakenly thought might be the last time.  She was received on the 23 September 1923, and was from then on known as Sister Felicitas.

Felicitas taught at many schools – Otaki, Aramoho, Levin, Taihape, Hastings and Hawera, mainly taking the senior primary classes.  She held the position of principal of the school and superior of the community in many of these places.  She was known as a thorough teacher and a stern disciplinarian.  She had a great interest and proficiency in sport, coaching many successful netball teams and following their progress with interest. 

As a person, Felicitas is remembered having a steadfast faith and a strong devotion to Mary, Mother of the church.  There was graciousness, Irish charm and a good sense of humour – the heritage that was evident in the touch of Irish brogue Felicitas never lost.

In later years, her increasing ill-health deprived her of her vivacity and humour, but not her faithfulness to the prayer life she had developed.  Felicitas died at Nazareth Rest Home on 6 October 1987, and her funeral Mass was held at St Mary’s Church, Whanganui.  She is buried at Aramoho Cemetery.

In speaking with others about her homeland, Felicitas was known to say: “I’ve no wish to go there, as it wouldn’t be the Ireland of my childhood, but I hope that when I die my soul will pass through old Ireland on its way”.  It was the hope of many at her funeral.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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