Sr Anne Donockley CRSA, 20th February 1948 - 22nd April 2016
On April 22 at 11.20pm, Sr Anne Donockley died peacefully in her room in Bethany surrounded by the care of her Sisters and staff. She had endured her long illness with great patience and courage maintaining her warm outreach to others to the end and showing more concern for others than herself. She is greatly missed.
Anne was born in Urmston in Manchester. Her early involvement with Christianity was through an evangelical Church and she retained a lifelong affection for aspects of their tradition. However, at the age of twelve she decided to become a Catholic. At the age of sixteen, she joined the Augustinian Canonesses at Boarbank, making her first profession on 9th November 1967 and her final profession on 23rd November 1970. She took as her religious name John Bosco, and though she later reverted to her baptismal name, she remained devoted to her patron saint.
In the early years Sr Anne worked in the kitchen, dining room, Nursing Home and bookings office, with her natural sociability well suited to the hospitality which is the Sisters’ special charism. She was a very gifted musician, acting as the community’s organist for many years and composing much of the liturgical music that we still use. She had a prodigious musical memory, for melodies and for lyrics, and played many other instruments including the piano, guitar, accordion, and Northumbrian pipes. She followed a liturgical course in Carlow in Ireland, and after this organised the community liturgy guiding the transition to including more modern hymns with our traditional liturgy. She always had a special affection for children and provided catechesis for several local families.
In 1991 spent a year working in an orphanage run by Mother Theresa’s Sisters in Romania. She followed this by studying for a BA in Theology at Ushaw College. Her lifelong love of young people led her to serve as a chaplain first at Lancaster Farms Young Offenders’ Institution, and then, for eight especially happy years, at Northumbria and Newcastle Universities. After she returned full-time to Boarbank in 2005, she continued to organise the liturgy and took charge of Formation.
In 2012 she fulfilled a long-standing ambition to visit some of her former students in Singapore and Malaysia. On her return her health began to deteriorate, and she was admitted to the nursing home in January 2013. Even when she was no longer able to stand, she continued to live her life as fully as possible, managing to play the organ and piano at Mass seated in her wheelchair, producing a wide variety of hand-knitted presents, as always offering a warm welcome to the many friends who came to visit her, and keeping in touch electronically with many other friends.
Sr Anne died peacefully in Boarbank Nursing Home, on the evening of Friday 22nd April, in the company of some of her Sisters.
A friend from her days as student chaplain in Newcastle writes:
“She had the gift of loving unconditionally but she was not afraid of standing up for what she thought was right! In Newcastle she lived life to the full and accepted students as she found them, all the time gently challenging them, supporting them in difficult decisions: she has had an amazing ministry of continuing to do this since she returned to Boarbank, with a wide circle of Facebook friends. Anne was accepting of everyone, whether they were Catholic or not, Christian or not and was truly ecumenical , she had an understanding of the Kingdom of God which was inclusive. Because of this she enabled many young people find their way to God.”
Whilst being a very talented musician,she seldom 'took over' the music group - our grandson wrote “Sister Anne was always very kind and showed me many things including how to play twinkle twinkle little star on the piano. I will miss her.” His cornet playing owes a lot to her encouragement and she had asked him to play at her golden jubilee - alas that will be superseded by angelic music!
The chief celebrant at her funeral was Fr David Russell, Anne’s colleague at Newcastle University Chaplaincy where Anne worked from September 1989 to April 2005. Those around the altar included Anne’s cousin, Canon Paul Mitcheson.
You can CLICK HERE for the text of his homily, and the 4 items mentioned are shown in the slide show of photos of the event near the end.
Sr Anne was buried in the Community cemetery, with its view over Morecambe Bay, in sunshine. Many of the congregation came to the graveside giving support to her family and the Sisters. A buffet in Boarbank followed of which Anne would have entirely approved; time for everyone to be together sharing food, faith and fellowship. The funeral was a testament to Anne and rightly joyful in tone and celebratory.
While there was deep sadness, a strong note was the joy that Anne wanted to be brought to the occasion. The funeral was deeply moving and evocative of Anne’s spirit. It was uplifting and consoling for those who mourn her loss.
Her cousin, Canon Paul, said, ‘What has happened for Anne is wonderful.’ May she rest in peace.