Sr. Anastasia was born in Rock, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone in 1921. She attended the Loreto School in Omagh, Co. Tyrone for her secondary education. She excelled at school from her earliest years, and got the highest marks in Northern Ireland in her senior leaving certificate. She continued her education in Dublin and graduated with a BA from UCD in 1941. This was followed by a H.Dip. in Education.
When she first qualified as a secondary school teacher Anastasia went back to her old school in Omagh. A sister of our late Sr. Rosemary O’Neill was the headmistress there and invited Anastasia to work with one of the classes that didn’t have a good primary school foundation. Anastasia worked with them for a year and brought them up to a very good standard.
Her next teaching posts were in Oldham and Birmingham in England. These were war years and everything was rationed, but she came home for Christmas with special treats. She was very close to her family and loved her visits home. Later, when she was teaching in St. Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt, Co. Derry, she helped the young people with their studies when she came home at weekends. In 1947, St. Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt was in the process of obtaining recognition by the Northern Ireland Education Authority and needed suitable and well qualified teachers. Anastasia was invited to take a teaching post there so she returned to Ireland.
She always had the desire to enter religious life, but this call was delayed because of family circumstances. Her father was invalided early in life and her mother took over the task of running the farm. Anastasia recalls the many happy memories she had of the farm and how she enjoyed bringing the tea out to the men working in the fields. It was an opportunity for her to paddle in the lough, which she enjoyed very much.
After teaching for eight years she joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1950. Even before her profession she began work as editor of the MMM magazine, which she did from 1952 to 1957. In 1958 she was assigned to Nigeria. She went to Ogoja where she taught Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients. Her next assignment was as superior and hospital secretary in Ikom. In 1962 she went to Abakaliki and was responsible for the social work in the Hansen’s disease village. From 1964 to 1967 she was principal of the Diocesan Juniorate for Girls in Obudu.
Sr. Anastasia returned to Ireland in 1967 and was assistant editor of the MMM magazine before doing a course in social anthropology in Manchester University. From 1971 to 1977 she was in charge of our house of studies in Rosemount, Dublin. There she guided many MMMs during their years of training. She also worked on the revision of the MMM Constitutions. In 1980 she returned to Nigeria for two years, serving in leadership and giving talks on the MMM Constitutions to all the communities.
Back in Ireland in 1983, she trained as an archivist and did a diploma in social and economic studies. She then spent twenty years as the MMM archivist in Beechgrove.
Even from her school days Anastasia had poor hearing, but this didn’t deter her. She was a very intelligent person and was determined to make good use of the gifts God had given her. She availed of any treatment available and continued to wear hearing aids even though they didn’t help her very much. She learned to do some lip reading but she struggled with deafness for many years. It was amusing to read a comment she had written in one of her notebooks, ‘Maybe it is better sometimes not to hear.’ We remember her for her kindness, generosity, understanding, and great sense of humour.
Sr. Anastasia retired in 2003 and continued to live in the Motherhouse until 2013, when she moved to our nursing facility, Áras Mhuire, for additional care. She was within a month of her ninety-fourth birthday when she became generally unwell for a week or two. She died peacefully in Áras Mhuire on 19 January 2015.