In Remembrance of
Sister Jane Miriam Hancock
April 9, 2017
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU, Congregational Leader
We welcome you to our home again to celebrate the life of a very remarkable woman. Sister Jane Miriam Hancock was well known for her work in selling the chances every year for our picnic but she did much more than that. This evening we would like to share some of the ways in which Sr. Jane Miriam shared her life and ministry with so many.
Rita Emma Hancock was born at Waverly in Union County, KY, on December 3, 1923. Her parents were Irvin Hancock, Sr. and Jane Catherine Payne Hancock. She was baptized on December 16, 1923 by Father P.J. McNeil. She was confirmed on June 4, 1935 by Most Reverend John A. Floersh.
She was born into a large family. Her brothers and sisters included Irvin Jr., Mary Catherine Veatch, John, Sister Jane Irvin, Louise, Father Walter, Ann Collins, Ben and Gertie. Louise, we offer our sympathy to you and to all of you from her family who have come to be with her today.
The first school Rita Emma attended was Saint Peter School in Waverly, KY. She named Sister Mary Gregory, Sister Mary David and Sister Barbara Ann as some of her elementary school teachers. Other teachers she listed for Secondary school at Saint Peter High School were Sisters Joseph Therese, Paul Joseph, Uriel, Patrice and Elizabeth Marie. The Ursulines influenced her in her vocation choice. There was very little in her file about her school years in Waverly but several comments by teachers on her report cards said that she was a good student.
On February 2, 1942, Rita entered the novitiate at Mount Saint Joseph. She entered with Sisters Maura Buckler, Rose Marie Craycroft, Mary Philip Doll, Marie Julie Fecher, Bertha Marie Nally, Francella Neville, Camilla Riggs, Dolorita Robinson and Sister Jean Richard Stukenholtz. Sister Marie Julie and Sister Rose Marie, we offer you our sympathy and prayers at the loss of your classmate. I am sure that you could tell many stories about her life.
Rita received the habit on August 14, 1942 and received the name of Sister Jane Miriam. Both she and Jane Irvin took their mother’s name of Jane and Jane Irvin took her dad’s. They were devoted to their family.
Sister Jane Miriam made her first vows on August 15, 1944 and made final profession on August 15, 1947. As soon as she made her first vows, she was off to St. Peter of Alcantara in Stanley, KY to begin her educational ministry. What followed was a list of schools comparable to the Litany of Saints—Sts. Joseph and Paul, in Owensboro, St. Sebastian in Calhoun, St. Brigid in Vine Grove, St. Joseph High school in Mayfield twice, St. Margaret Mary in Lyndon twice, Holy Cross in Holy Cross, KY, St. Peter of Alcantara again, St. Pius Tenth school in Owensboro and then she was off to Marian County from 1969 to 1994. After leaving Marian County schools, she substituted in Owensboro Catholic Schools until she retired to the Mount in 2002.
Sister began her own educational career in the summer of 1944. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ursuline College in Louisville in 1967 and her Master of Arts in Education (History) from Spalding University in 1974. She was learning all those years as she was teaching. It was interesting to see some of the classes she took—Genetics, Histological Technique, Calculus, Great Books 1,2,3,4 and Embryology. She had certificates to teach Elementary School and High School. She had a major in History and a Minor in Biology.
Sister Jane Miriam was a good teacher. Some of her peers were very complimentary in their evaluations of her. Mrs. Betty Wise, a professional colleague, said, “I have been impressed with Sister’s interest and concern for her students. Several have been involved in various science projects as well as other activities. Sister has been an inspiration for all of us. She has certainly gone the extra mile.”
Another colleague, Pat Bryan, shared her thoughts about Sr. Jane Miriam when she said, ”I see in Sister Jane Miriam, the qualities that I would like to have someday. She is consistently trying to impress upon the students the need to be honest and the need for self-improvement.”
Sister Jane Miriam loved her students and she loved watching them play basketball. In an article in The News-Enterprise on March 17, 1992 there was a full page spread of pictures and articles about her going with the teens to their ballgames. Darrell Bird wrote the article and began by saying, “Jane Miriam Hancock is a typical basketball fan in that, when moments are tense, she clutches a favorite charm (a rosary) to her lips, often wincing in anticipation of the outcome. She is not so typical, however, in that this avid fan is known, lovingly and quite simply as Sister Jane Miriam.”
He continues by adding, “She has been an instructor in Lebanon for decades, but only relates her age with a chuckle, ‘I’m Sweet 16 to 99 plus. You can guess whatever you like in between.”
To Sister Jane Miriam, the basketball gymnasium was much more than a sporting arena. It was a platform from which the young people could strive to do many things. She said, “I follow them every chance I get because they are at that age, the prime of their life, when they are getting values that will assist them the rest of their life. Honesty, Fairness, Truthfulness, Responsibility. These are values that will aid them in mastering their livelihood. I love my boys and girls very much, and I want to be there to assist them in any way possible.”
Sister Jane Miriam taught many different classes. She taught biology for most of those years in Marion County. But when she was not teaching, she was collecting tickets at the door for the home games. Sometimes she wouldn’t be able to see much of the game because she was working the concessions or other duties. But she did get messages to players like Anthony Epps and Robert Spalding. She said, “I always send word with a cheerleader to my Mr. Epps or Mr. Spalding. I say, ‘Now, you have to not only try, but win. We want a victory.’”
Her Mr. Epps went on to play basketball for the University of Kentucky and she never missed a game on the radio or TV. She never did. She knew when every game was going to be and had a listing of all the games on the door to her room so everyone else would know, too. She was proud of her Kentucky team this year as they got to the Elite Eight. She watched that game and watched the final game of the NCAA championship.
Sister had many friends, many of them her students, who would write to her. She had a huge list of friends in her address book. One of those friends was Linda Jedlicki. Linda sent her a card that was placed in her file. It said, “Sister Jane, I know families all over Louisville give thanks for the educational and loving start you gave our children in school. I only wish you were still in education. There’s never been one to top you.”
Sister was a great educator but she was also a great salesperson. We all know her history as the top salesperson for picnic tickets for many years. She was not afraid to ask anyone to help support our sisters. She took this job very seriously. In December of 1999, she submitted a Statement of Income. This form is not in any other folder that we know. She must have made up her own. She had columns for Social Security, her Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement, any other income and her grand total of $19,000 in sales of picnic tickets. She felt she was supporting the community by selling those tickets.
One story that has been told is that so many people knew her in the area of Marian County that when they saw her coming, they just pulled out their wallets and said how much. Someone said that she went into a bar one day and wouldn’t leave until everyone in the bar had bought some tickets.
There was an article written by Sister Suzanne Sims in her file that told a little about her talent for selling tickets. She said, “She carries that twinkle in her eye and that signature smile that warms any heart. She has a listening ear as she asks how the person or some ill family member is doing. She promised prayers for them all. And, yes, she found a way to ask if the person wanted the same number of tickets as they took last year or a few more…this was all exchanged as the secretary or CEO was writing a check for the tickets.”
Sister Jane truly worked to help support the picnic which supported the Retirement fund for the Sisters. After she could not travel any more to sell the tickets, she sent out letters every year to her family and friends asking them to take the tickets. They would send her the money and she would fill out the tickets. When she couldn’t do that, we simply gave her a list of the people who sent back the tickets and gave her a card to send to the person who wanted the tickets. She didn’t have to send a thank you but she said she wanted to do that. Last year, all she could do was sign her name to the card.
Sister Jane was a very determined woman. She was one of a kind and gave all of us an example of complete dedication to the community. During the last months, she has been up and down. Many times, we were told that she wouldn’t live and the next thing we knew she was up again at meals and parties. The staff of the Villa have been so good to her and we want to thank all of you who cared for her and helped her as she prepared to go to God.
In the article that was mentioned earlier, she closed it by telling the reporter, “I will continue so long as God grants me the health to do so. All I do is by the grace of God. We owe all to Him, because without Him we are nothing.”
Sister Jane Miriam has truly lived out those words. She loved God, her community and her family. In the end, she gave her all to God on April 6, 2017. We thank God for sharing this good woman with us.
Sister Jane Miriam, your ticket selling days are over, so don’t be asking the Blessed Mother or any of the saints to buy a ticket. Ask them to send five or six young women to serve with us. It will take that many to replace you. God be with you and rest in peace.