Sister Joan Langdon: May she rest in peace
who died in the Royal Blackburn Hospital on the 11th May 2017
Joan was born on December 27th 1921 – the eldest daughter of Granville and Eveleen. Joan was Baptised on New Year’s Day 1922. She is pre deceased by her parents and her sister Margaret who dedicated her life to being a priest’s housekeeper. Joan’s younger sister Frances is well known and loved by many of our Sisters – quiet and unassuming and an example of faith in action.
Joan was educated at St. Robert’s Longsight and then the FCJ convent achieving excellent exam results. She left school at 18 and became an Analytical Laboratory Assistant. Joan applied to enter our Congregation when she was 21 but at the request of her father she delayed entering for three years until after the end of the Second World War. Joan eventually entered from home on February 14th 1946 at the age of 24. Joan was clothed in the Religious Habit, six months later receiving the name Sister Mary St. Albert. Her First Profession took place on the 8th September 1947. After Profession, Sister Joan was appointed to train as a teacher at the FCJ Teacher Training College – Sedgley Park, Manchester. After qualifying, she accepted an appointment for East Africa but first, for a few months, looked after the little boys in Rescue Care.
Sister Joan sailed from Tilbury Dock on December 2nd 1949 arriving in Mombasa on the 21st January 1950. She was to serve in Kenya for 58 years. Joan was always filled with gratitude that she had been allowed to spend so much of her life in Kenya. Joan’s Ministry as a teacher took her to communities in Asumbi, where she made Final Vows on September 8th 1952, the new Chepterit foundation, Kaplong and Rangala. In 1982 Sister Joan was appointed to Nyabururu community and taught in the Upgrading Centre, the High School and the Teacher Training College. In 1997 Joan was appointed to Salawa and finally to Marigat. Sister Joan was well known and greatly respected wherever she lived and served and in later years a much loved ‘Elder’.
On her part Sister Joan deeply loved and respected the people of Africa and felt privileged to be among them, indeed one of them. She also loved the sunshine! She had a great gift for languages and made a point of greeting people, wherever she met them, in their own language. Joan loved gardening – that is – growing fruit and vegetables even in Salawa where it was so difficult to cultivate the land. She was a great story teller and had a wonderful memory. There will be many stories now being shared in Africa as Joan is remembered………
Sister Joan had a great love for priests and was a wonderful support to young priests and always made huge efforts to participate in their Ordination Masses. She was tireless too in promoting the ‘Cause’ of African Cardinal Maurice Otunga. The Mill Hill Missionaries always had a special place in Joan’s heart right until the day of her death.
When Sister Joan was on ‘home leave’ with Frances we enjoyed her presence among us in St. Robert’s Parish, Longsight when the fmsjs were there and we always had a parish celebration with a prayer and an anointing to send her home to her beloved Kenya.
In 2008, and with increasing ill health, Sister Joan returned to the UK and was appointed to Burnley. A huge adjustment but faced with courage and fortitude, Joan gradually became well enough to participate fully in community. The well-being of our Congregation was paramount to her and she was always ready for an in depth discussion! Joan loved of course to hear news of our Sisters in Kenya.
She made many friends outside of the community and with the support of the parish priest started a parish prayer group to pray for vocations and this still continues. Joan was devoted to her family and especially to Frances whose frequent visits she looked forward to and enjoyed so much.
Until a few days before she died, Joan was a prolific letter writer with beautiful handwriting and she never failed to express gratitude for anything she received from others. Joan greatly appreciated too the care she received from the Sisters and staff in Burnley and would say how blessed she was.
Sister Joan had a simple lifestyle, deeply rooted in prayer. She was serene and calm; combining common sense and humility with compassion and wisdom. She was never swayed by people’s opinion of her. She could be stubborn too! Joan, as the authentic missionary that she was – was always ready to decrease in the same way as Alice Ingham disappeared so often in her story. Joan appeared quite solemn for most of the time but in fact she had a keen sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Joan lived each day well.
“Look to this dawn because today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope”. (Sanskrit)
On Tuesday May 9th Sister Joan had a fall. When she was being helped back to her room – her blood pressure dropped dramatically. Although she recovered immediately and was fully alert – Joan was taken and admitted to hospital. Four more episodes followed in hospital, each one lasting just moments followed by Joan being fully alert and making plans whilst looking content and comfortable. Sister Pat stayed with Joan for most of the time and Sister Isabel, as a member of the Hospital Chaplaincy Team, visited her on the ward. Just before 2 am on the morning of Thursday 11th May Joan had a further attack but did not recover.
Sister Joan’s funeral will take place at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday May 23rd at the Franciscan Convent Burnley followed by burial at Burnley Cemetery.
MAY SHE REST IN PEACE