Sr Isabelle Harding sm sm was called to eternal life on Sunday 11th August 2019.
Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
We extend our prayerful sympathy to the Marist Sisters in Aotearoa-New Zealand and to Sr Isabelle’s family. the following eulogy was delivered at her funeral held at St Mary’s Parish, Mt Albert on 14th August 2019.
With the death of Barbara Jean Harding, Sister Isabelle, it is the end of an era, several in fact.
Firstly for her family as Isabelle is the last of the thirteen children of Isabella and George Harding to die, and so the last of her generation of the family. She has been the Matriarch for some years and the keeper of the family history all her life.
It is also the end of the era of the Marist Sisters having an important part to play in Waitaruke and especially at the school there, Hato Hohepa for 90 years. Sister Isabelle was the last Sister on the staff and was later for a number of years the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.
Again, Sister Isabelle was the last of the young Marist Sisters who in the 50’s and 60’s left Australia and New Zealand soon after their Profession to go to the Missions in Fiji. Earlier others had also gone to Tonga but had been evacuated during WW2. Isabelle went to Fiji in 1960 and taught at the Goldmines school in Vatukoula and also at schools in Lami, Solevu and Varoka, Ba,and Nadi, all on the main Island of Viti Levu, and later on the outer Islands of Ovalau and Yasawa. Isabelle is the last of the valiant and wonderful women we all knew there, Josephine, Regina, Anita, Sabina, Miriam and many others. Of course there were also French and Irish Sisters and others like Alexius and Nolasco who were born in Fiji but were part of that generation also. Today all the Marist Sisters in Fiji are born and bred in that country, are living in different parts of Fiji serving the needs of their people in new ministries as well as in schools.
In 1982 Isabelle came back to New Zealand for good, and after a few years teaching at Mt Albert, Orakei and Putaruru, she went to the North where she remained for the next almost thirty years. She taught at Hato Hohepa until she was given the Diocesan Ministry of Religious Education Adviser, Northland. She held this position for eight years, and if you were around in Kerikeri where she lived at that time, you would have seen her in her little car which held a TV monitor, stacks of religious videos, and piles of books and papers heading out the gate to go North South East and West to visit schools, parishes, families and individuals, to prepare them for the Sacraments and nourish their Faith.
In 2003 she was back in Waitaruke, involved in the school and Parish, and in particular facilitating and tutoring those who wished to follow the three year programme of ,’Walk By Faith’ and many men and women in the North have done all or part of that course with her.
In 2014, as the buildings in Waitaruke were needed for a new venture, and Sister Margarita her companion, was now in Kauri Rest Home in Kaeo, Isabelle moved with Sister Catherine to join Sister Kathleen in Kaikohe where she continued the Walk By Faith Programme right up to the Graduation of the last group of participants earlier this year.
Sister Isabelle had many loves in her life. First of course, was the Lord and his mother Mary. She loved prayer and to meditate on the Scripture Readings of the day, both in English and Maori. She loved all things Maori, art, culture, marae stays, and especially Te Reo which she studied at Massey University and Wananga Aotearoa for many years.She loved her family deeply and the Marist Sisters and wider Marist family. She loved Waitaruke and especially the school where she taught the children, another of her loves, gardening. They grew vegetables, harvested them and proudly took them home to their families. She had a particular love for Waimahana and our little bach there and to swim in the beautiful bay.
Sister Isabelle was a wonderful woman to whom God had given many gifts and talents. As an artist and a poet she loved to share with Brother Romuald FMS, in Kaikohe, himself an artist and poet. She published two books about the Hokianga and her family which included many photos, another hobby, and poems. As she aged she began to lose her eyesight from Aged Macular Degeneration. She took advantage of the experience of blindness of Brother Mark Chamberlain FMS to learn ways of coping with this disability. She was also attracted by his guide-dog for she loved all animals, horses, cows, dogs and especially one special cat named, Psycho, who was in Waitaruke and Kaikohe, and is now buried in a grove of trees just inside the gates of Waitaruke.
Sister Isabelle’s Fijian friends would say, “Moce, Sister, and loloma levu.
We say, ‘ Go in peace, Isabelle, enjoy eternal life with all you love.
Haere ra, Isabelle, Barbara Jean Harding, you good and faithful daughter of Mary.