Sister Joseph Elizabeth Sanfey
1934 – 2012
Born: 11th January 1934
Entered Religious Life: 16th October 1950
Died: 2nd April 2012
An appreciation of Sr Joseph Elizabeth Sanfey
Sr Elizabeth Sanfey, daughter of Joseph Sanfey and Elizabeth Pidgeon, was born in Dublin on the 11th January 1934. She was one of seven children, she had three sisters and three brothers. She entered the Sisters of Charity in Milltown on the 16th October 1950 and was given the name Sr Joseph Elizabeth at her reception into the novitiate and made her religious profession at the age of nineteen on 28th April 1953.
During her life Sr Elizabeth ministered in the Irish, English/Scottish Provinces and the Zambian Region. After her profession she spent two years in Bristol where she was involved in housekeeping and in parish work. On her return to Ireland in 1955 she was missioned to Mountjoy Street to teach in the primary school in King’s Inn Street for six months. She then went to train as a primary teacher in Carysfort Teacher Training College. Following her graduation from Carysfort she spent three years teaching in Clonmel before returning to Mountjoy Street and then to Milltown while she studied for her B.A.Degree in UCD.
In August 1966 Sr. Elizabeth was missioned to Chivuna, Zambia and in 1968 she moved to Chikuni, as the Secondary School in Chivuna had been passed on to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Recognising her gifts, the Ministry of Education in Zambia invited her to set up a Commercial College in Kabwe Teacher Training College. She carried out this task with great enthusiasm and the high standards reached by the students ensured financially viable positions for them in their future employment. During this time she stayed with the Dominican sisters in the convent where our sisters now live. In 1973 she returned to Ireland as principal of the secretarial School in Milltown. From Milltown she returned to Mountjoy Street where she was principal of King’s Inn Street Secondary School until 1986. From 1986 to 1992 she was principal of the Secondary School in Foxford. She was passionate about Education and as an educator she was conscientious, full of new ideas or as she called them “lights” and had great patience with children who needed that extra help in understanding things.
After her sabbatical in Canada, where she had the opportunity to spend some time with her sister, she was missioned to St.Vincent’s Cork where she was responsible for the accounts. From Cork she moved to Donnybrook and was Secretary/Manager of the Residential Care Centre until 1999.
Her next move was to Stanhope Street where she spent two years working in the Heritage Centre, which had been set up by Sr. Mary Aquinas Hogan. From 2001-2005 she lived in Tramore, Co Waterford community and commuted to Waterford every day where she was in charge of the Sacred Heart Centre for children with learning difficulties. Sr Elizabeth then moved to Temple Street, where she was involved in the ministry of Neighbourhood retreats.
Sr Elizabeth loved a challenge and was totally committed to whatever she was asked to do. She had a great love of the Congregation and it always gave her great pleasure to be asked to “do” something on behalf of the Congregation. Over the years this took the form of re-writing the morning reading book, giving lessons to the sisters (often over weekends), to help them with their studies and exams, and in more recent times interviewing sisters to record their memories of life in the Congregation. Whether it was teaching a class, doing accounts or running a centre she loved to get the project up and running and then move on. Nothing was burdensome for her and she settled in very well wherever she was sent.
She was a very prayerful person who had a very simple way of expressing her life of prayer and love of God: God called her, she answered, “Yes” and everything after that was done in and for Him. She had a very fulfilled life until the advance of her illness, which must have been very difficult for her. This illness necessitated her being admitted to the Mary Aikenhead Wing of St Patrick’s, Kilkenny on 9th December 2006 where she was lovingly nursed and cared for over her declining years. She died very peacefully on 2nd April 2012. May she rest in peace. She was laid out in the Convent Chapel where her family, colleagues and staff came to pay their last respects. Her removal took place to St Joseph’s Church, Foulkstown for Mass and burial. Fr Liam Taylor CC was chief celebrant with three Carmelite priests from Terenure College, Fr Maurice Crean MHM, Fr Dermot Ryan and Fr Sean O’Connor as con-celebrants. A large congregational presence joined her family and friends to celebrate her life of service and commitment to the Lord. May she rest in peace.