Speaking in Remembrance
Sister Jane Irvin Hancock
March 12, 2017
Sister Amelia Stenger, Congregational Leader
Where does one begin to talk about Sister Jane Irvin Hancock? She was involved in so many things until God called her home on the evening of March 8, 2017. She was a teacher, dorm mother, facility manager at the retreat center, caretaker for retired priests and stamp sorter. Most of all she was one who shared joy and happiness.
Martha Jane Hancock was born in Waverly, KY on June 14, 1927 to her parents Robert Irvin Hancock, Sr. and Jane Catherine Payne Hancock. She was baptized on July 3, 1927 and confirmed on June 4, 1935 by Bishop John Floersh. She was the seventh child in the family of ten children. Her brothers and sisters were Irvin Hancock, Jr., Mary Catherine Hancock Veatch, Father Walter Hancock, Rita Emma Hancock now Sister Jane Miriam, Ann Hancock Collins, Ben Hite Hancock, Margaret Louise Hancock Coshan and Mary Gertrude Hancock Martin. We offer our sympathy and prayers to you, Sister Jane Miriam and to all of you, her family and friends, who have come to celebrate Sister Jane Irvin’s life.
She attended St. Peter School in Waverly, KY for Grade School. Some of her early teachers were Sister Mary Cornelius and Sr. Jeromena. She attended High School in Waverly and her teachers there were Sr. Nazaria, Sr. Therese, Sr. Mary Joseph, Sr. Patricia, Sr. Acquina, Sr. Dolorose and Sr. Ruth Agnes. It is always wonderful to hear the names of some of the wonderful teachers of our community.
During her early years, she worked on the farm. When she was sixteen she decided to raise a feeder pig. An article about her said, “A little while back, Miss Hancock had the best kind of evidence of the success of her MoorMan feeding method because her hog was judged the outstanding one at the 12th Annual Tri-state 4-H Calf and Hog Show and Sale at Evansville Union Stockyards. After the show her grand champion barrow was sold for 42 cents a pound.“ She loved animals and birds. When visiting with her in Louisville, she would always be throwing bread crumbs and birdseed out to the birds.
Sister Jane Irvin entered our community on September 8, 1947. She entered with Sisters Luisa, Clarita, Coletta, Mary Afra, Mary Sheila, Eileen, Ann Miriam, Rose Theresa, Jamesetta, Mary Louise, Mariam Therese, Mary Renee and John Mary. She is celebrating now with all who have gone before her. We offer our sympathy to Sister Luisa, Sr. Clarita, Sr. Mary Sheila and Sister Grace.
Sister Jane Irvin received the habit on August 14, 1948 and made first vows on August 15, 1950. On August 15, 1953, she made final vows and that same year went out on her first mission to St. Martin’s in Rome, KY. Other schools where she taught include Sts. Joseph and Paul in Owensboro, KY, St. Pius X in Owensboro, KY and St. Leonard School in Louisville, KY. Most of her teaching career was with grades 1 and 2.
During the summer of 1965, she received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Brescia University. It took her almost 15 years to get her degree because she taught during the year and went to school in the summer.
In 1975, Sister Jane Irvin came to Mount Saint Joseph Academy to become the Dean of Boarding Students. Most of the girls referred to her as their “dorm mother.” Michelle Welsh, one of the boarding students, wrote about Sister Jane Irvin in the Mount, the school newspaper. She said, “Sister Jane Irvin is the official Resident Director of St. Ann’s Hall; but for all the love, service and devotion she gives to the students, “her” girls, she might well be the “Supreme Love Donor.” Sister Jane is the room inspector, job critic, shirt and sock cleaner. She is the lunch preparer on special Sundays, and she helps everyone feel better when they are sick. Not only does Sister Jane do those things for the students, but she dries the tears whenever someone is sad and she is the confidant to the girl with a problem. She encourages when the girls are down, and shares joys when they are happy or excited. … She is a second mother and the girls love her dearly.”
In an article in the New Mount in 2008, Dan Heckel interviewed several of the students who were at the Mount while she was there. Kim (Clemons) Haire, a graduate of 1979, shared a story about Sister Jane Irvin. She said, “Sister Jane Irvin always wanted every girl to attend the junior/senior prom. My senior year at the Mount, I was one of three girls who decided we would not go to the prom because we did not have dates. Sister Jane Irvin let us know that if we wanted to go to our prom then we should go, with or without a date. This was a big event in our lives and she thought we should definitely attend. Eventually, we gave in and decided we would go ‘stag,”
“Just a couple of days before the big evening, Sister Jane Irvin told us that she had a surprise for us…she had found us dates! None of us were too excited about the idea of having blind dates for our senior prom, and we almost backed out of going. The evening of the prom, the young men came out to the Mount and she introduced each of us to our date. I’ll never forget her beaming face as she watched us girls being escorted to the gym that night…l don’t think any parent could have been more proud or happy for us!”
“The prom went along as well as could be expected, but as the evening wore on, I realized I was enjoying the conversation and the sense of humor of my friend’s date. We continued to talk throughout that evening and the conversation hasn’t stopped yet. Phil and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in May.” Sister Jane was a matchmaker, too. Now Phil and Kim have been married 34 years.
When the Academy closed in 1983, Sister Jane Irvin stayed at the Mount to be the Facility Organizer. She helped greet guests, clean rooms, serve meals and anything else that needed to be done. She had a very outgoing personality.
In 1989, she was asked to go to Bishop David Apartments for the Clergy, which she did graciously, all the while taking care of the retired priests. Many of those priests have gone to heaven and were there to greet her when she arrived. Fr. Ed Scherzer wrote that she “gauged her care for us according to how she would want her brother, Fr. Walter, to be treated.”
In 2003, after twenty-six years of caregiving, she retired to the Motherhouse where she shared her sense of humor with the Sisters and sorted and trimmed stamps to sell. She also helped in the chapel.
Regardless of Sister Jane Irvin’s title, she received the highest praise from co-workers, friends and bosses. Archbishop Kelly named a star in the vaulted ceiling of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville in her honor. In a letter to her he said, ‘It hurts my conscience to think that you are gone from us without my making a speech of public thanks to you for all you did at Bishop David. So many hours of labor, such beautiful love for our priests, and much laughter. You have taught us all what it means to love the Lord and see Him in one another and to take up the Cross with a cheery smile. We can never thank you enough. … When we get to name our heroes, you’ll always be at the top of my list. Ever Grateful, Thomas C. Kelly, O.P., Archbishop of Louisville.
On the evening of March 8, 2017, Sister Jane Irvin joined all her brothers and sisters, her Ursuline classmates and all those priests who have gone to heaven before her. She had suffered long but even in her last days smiled when asked a question. We would like to thank the nurses and helpers in the Villa for their great care of Sister during her time in the Villa. You cared for her with great compassion.
We found a poem in her file that she must have put there a long time ago and I would like to close with it. The poem is by Mary Dixon Thayer and the title is:
Close to God
Dear God, I wish I could have been among those girls and boys
You called to come and talk with You and who left all their toys,
And ran and climbed upon Your knee and held your hand and sat
Around you, learning lovely things—I wish I had done that!
But God, I know that even now I can get close to You.
I know You still love children –yes Indeed! I know You do.
And so, I often slip away into the church and kneel
Down at the altar where You are and tell You all I feel.
I cannot see your face and yet I know that You are there.
I know I’m just as close to you as all those children were.”
We know that Sr. Jane Irvin is sitting with those children and making sure everyone gets a turn on his lap. God be with you Sister Jane as you enjoy your new life.