Sister Anne LaHart, died on December 30, and was buried on January 3 in in the congregational cemetery, following a Mass of Christian burial in the chapel at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown.
Sister Anne was born on Saint Joseph Day in 1932; she was christened Anne Frances and at her confirmation, added the name, Bernadette. She was the youngest child of Richard and Mary Curran LaHart. The family were members of St. Gregory Parish and she and her older siblings, Mary, Dick and Ed attended St. Gregory School. Anne went on to graduate from West Catholic High School in 1950. She worked at Westinghouse following her graduation and in 1951 she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Anne enjoyed reminiscing about her childhood. She was born during the Depression, but despite the problems that this time presented, she had a happy childhood and lived in a happy and prayerful home. She was quite close to her brothers; both left home when she was young: Dick to the seminary and Ed to the navy. She said this made her learn to pray early in her life. Her dad, born and raised in Philadelphia, was of Irish descent. He explained the presence of “La” in their name, telling her that his family was forced to flee from Ireland and went to France to work, thus the LaHart version of their name. This satisfied Anne because she was proud of her Celtic heritage. Her mother, of course, was born in Ireland.
Sister Anne (at the time, Sister Marie Richard) began her ministry as an elementary school teacher. For thirteen years, she delighted in teaching first grade children. Then she was asked to teach high school business courses, and she did it, but with fear and trembling. In fact, she lost her voice on the first day of class – So many girls in so many classes! She would never remember everyone’s name, so she called everybody, “Honey” and they responded very well to the affectionate term. While she was teaching in high school, she began to visit the homebound in the parish. This is where she found her true calling. She eventually became a full-time pastoral minister with Catholic Social Services and in the 80s received certification in Clinical Pastoral Education. She was proud to say that she was professionally prepared for this ministry. By the time Catholic Social Services decided they could no longer fund this work, Anne had made herself invaluable and, fortunately, pastors formed an alliance to provide funding for her work. To be sure, Anne embodied the words of our Constitution then and throughout her ministry: Our name, Sisters of Saint Joseph, reminds us to serve others by our lives with the same care and concern with which Joseph served Jesus and Mary.
Anne’s bond with her brother Dick was strong. They were close as children, and their shared religious vocations brought them even closer. As Dick’s health declined, Anne asked to be missioned near him. She began 12 happy years at St. Anastasia Parish; she could help care for Dick in his long illness and minister in the parish as well. In 2012, she realized it was time to move to the Villa.
As Anne experienced declining health, she was called to live into the Paschal mystery in a deep and challenging way. Again, our Constitutions describe it well: We realize the dimensions of the Paschal Mystery in a new way in every stage of life. We desire, with God’s grace, to prepare ourselves to accept the limitations of age and infirmity, so that these situations of dependence may bring us to the fullness of our consecration as women religious.
We thank Anne for her faithful witness. May she be reunited with her parents, brothers and other loved ones. We are grateful for having had her with us.