On October 22nd, 1914, at 5.15 p.m. while her Sisters were reciting the Rosary in the chapel and assisting at Benediction for her spiritual consolation, our highly esteemed and much loved Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart, Fourth General Assistant, departed this life to enjoy, we have every reason to trust, a holier and happier one with her Divine Spouse in a Blessed Eternity.
This holy religious, this child of special grace and favour, was born in the County of Mayo, Ireland, on the 27th of December, 1844. Anna, as she was named, was the fourth child of her father, Charles Gardiner, and her mother, Eliza Moore, and it was only at her birth, her mother received the gift of faith, being heretofore outside the pale of the Catholic church. Whether the spiritual light bestowed on the mother reflected on the child, we cannot say, but at all events, she suffered from an early age an obscure visual weakness or disorder, which though not apparent exteriorly, caused her at times intense pain, followed by serious attacks of sickness.
Mr. Gardiner, who was engaged in mercantile pursuits and in good circumstances, was careful to give his children the advantage of a good education, especially was solicitous to have them well grounded in the truths and practice of their holy religion. Anna was sent with her sister to the convent school, but owing to ill health her studies were often interrupted. However, she acquired that knowledge and love of God and holy religion, which moved her to long ardently to consecrate her life forever to His service. But there remained the one obstacle the delicate condition of her health.
About this time her mother was taken from her by death, and at a later period her father sold out his property and with his family came to this country, settled in Kingston and in company with his two sons, Robert and James, established a flourishing dry goods business on Princess Street.
Soon the family became well and favourably known. Anna because of her weak health and inclined to retirement did not mingle much in society. His Lordship, Bishop Horan, who was a frequent visitor, learning of her inclination to the religious life, spoke to her of entering our convent, which he had lately founded and in which he took a fatherly interest. She offered the objection that as this was an active Community and only in its beginning, she would be an encumbrance rather than of service. But as His Lordship continued from time to time to strongly urge her to take this important step and being a very docile character, she finally consented to follow his advice. She entered the Novitiate on the Feast of the Assumption, 1868.
As Postulant, she devoted herself as far as she was able to all that was required of her, enduring patiently and cheerfully the inconveniences, the privations, the discomforts of this new abode, buoyed up by the thought that she was not following her own but the manifest will of God. She was gifted with a great and lively faith, seeing God everywhere in her Superiors, in her rules, in her employments and showing a very tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She received the Holy Habit in May, 1869, and a month later, at the request of her family, she was permitted to go to Quebec to consult a Specialist in regard to her eyes. She remained for two months fro treatment, staying at the convent. Though out of her Novitiate, her religious education did not suffer, being supplied by instructions from a Religious Father. She was benefited by the treatment, but still was never free from those attacks of pain in the head and sickness, which necessitated her being confined to her room for days together.
She made her Religious Profession in 1870 and four years later was appointed to the important charge of Mistress of Novices, but the following year, being elected third General Assistant, she was obliged to resign the first office. At a later period, in 1884, when re-elected General Assistant, the requisite permission for holding both offices was obtained from His Lordship. She was in charge of the Novitiate for different period, in all twenty-two years, during which time she also took part in the government of the Institute.
Of her capabilities it may be said that she was singularly gifted, her regular instructions to the Novices being equal to sermons from a Religious Father (Theologian). In her outward government she had rather an impulsive or hasty manner of address, but under this semblance of brusqueness, she had a most refined and sympathizing nature. She never hesitated to administer correction or reproof where she considered it prudent or necessary, but on the first sign of repentance or submission, she was ready to manifest indulgence and forgiveness. She was much loved by her Sisters, for though at times overwhelmed with cares and sufferings, she retained in a marked degree the admirable gayety and simplicity of her youth.
When not in office or otherwise employed, she generally had the supervision of the Women’s Department and here could be discerned her great faith and charity. Though preserving a becoming dignity in her intercourse with the poor, she always showed a kindness and tenderness for them in their afflictions, which gained their hearts.
For a few years before her death her memory began to fail and in July, 1913, though elected Fourth General Assistant, it was thought advisable to relieve her of the burden of the Novitiate. Though now free from responsibility, her mental faculties continued to fail. She who was never troubled by scruples or fear began to express doubt, etc., about going to Holy Communion and finally ceased to Communicate altogether. The last day of September she was moved from her room to the Infirmary, as she began to roam about during the night. Father Hanley, visiting her, thought well to administer Extreme Unction, but she was not conscious of receiving the Sacrament. His Grace, the Archbishop, came to see her and gave her the last absolution. He thought she might survive several day, but he had scarcely left the room when she fell into her agony, and while the Community were in prayer, her spirit took its flight to its Creator, Whom she had so well loved and served.
Her funeral took place on Saturday, October 24th, 1914, His Grace, Most Rev. Archbishop Spratt, officiating at Solemn Requiem Mass, assisted by Fathers Zehoe, Hanley and Traynor, at which many of the clergy were present.