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News > Obituaries > Tributes to Sr. TJ

Tributes to Sr. TJ

Tributes read at the Requiem Mass of Sr. TJ by Sr. Jean and Louise Tucker, TJ's niece.
10 Jul 2023


Jean Sinclair

‘We will be like him, for we will see him as he is’.  TJ’s deep & abiding love of the Lord was the focus of her life and work, of her care for & kindness to the students she taught, the staff with whom she worked, the hospice patients she met as a volunteer.  In a straightforward & matter-of-fact way, she wanted them to know the unconditional love of God, and to live their lives in trust & confidence.  Letters & emails refer to her integrity, her wisdom, her kindness, her wicked sense of humour, & her sometimes markedly critical comments!

She had a vivid imagination, used in her teaching mainly of RE.  She enjoyed bringing together verses from the Bible, sometimes with pictures, to illuminate a particular theme.  On one risky occasion she went into class, said she felt something of a hypocrite as she had lost her faith, & observed with pleasure that the avowedly uncommitted were the most vociferous in seeking to change her mind – and by the end of the lesson.

TJ enjoyed the challenge of boarding school life and sought to provide a happy and stable environment.  What we termed ‘adolescent muddle rather than malice’ did not always support this aim, and she made it abundantly clear that it would not be tolerated, but also ensured as soon as possible that those involved were given opportunities to show they were trusted, with some real responsibility, as many have reflected with gratitude.

‘My help comes from the Lord’: he gave her strength to contend with pain. Aged 21 she fell backwards off a ladder; the only treatment offered a hot bath.  Surgery in the 1960s & 70s & finally 2014 gave a little relief; her knee, where infection led to five operations, proved intractable.  She never allowed pain to dominate & reached the summit of Ben Hope, the most northerly Munro, in the late 1990s; she had thought of stopping at 2000 feet, but Bill, our dog, did not agree & took her onwards by the wrist, so that he could pose with her & my sister-in-law at the summit cairn. We had started our climb by Allt Na Caillich, the stream of the old woman.

She loved the Lord’s creation: rough seas breaking against rocks, flowers & the garden in Oxford, sunsets, the hills of Scotland.  Animals always held a special place: horses, dogs, wolves, dolphins, birds – but please ensure the mouse is at a considerable distance, and not as once in her bedroom slippers.  Her father had a stud in County Meath; at 18 months she was found making her way from her home, determined to see the horses, the other side of a busy road.  She became a gifted & fearless rider, borrowed by other parents to ride & help sell an outgrown pony.  Bill would be the latest of many animals to greet her at the Rainbow Bridge.

In the gradual diminishment of the last four years, she was always grateful for the wonderful care she received.  She greeted visitors, even if unsure who they were, with graciousness & courtesy.  Her sense of fun endured – with a wicked grin she admitted to feigning sleep if she did not want visitors.

‘I will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also’, this the Lord has given & we rejoice for TJ, that having sought to follow the Way, to seek and proclaim the Truth, she enjoys the eternal Life of his presence.


A Tribute to TJ 

Louise Tucker

From a very young age I was aware that I had an aunt in England, who was a nun, and who ‘prayed for me.’ I do recall wondering, from time to time, what I had done to necessitate my having to have a full-time, dedicated ‘prayer nun aunt’, but took some comfort in the fact that this was a ‘service’ I was not entirely alone in requiring - my 2 brothers and younger sister were likewise in need!

Why do I tell you this?

Not for one second because my story is the least bit important - but because, gathered as we all are, here today, to pay tribute to a rather remarkable woman, TJ, I realise that she was always a nun first, and an aunt second - a view I have come to discover, I share with all 6 of her nieces and nephews, and by extension, their children, as well as my cousin Sara, who has accompanied me here today. 

I am deeply grateful to Sister Jean, and Sister Mary, for inviting me to speak here today, on behalf of Jane’s family, but I am under no illusions that her family were more important to her than her vocation, and her life with all of you.

Hence, I believe it only fitting that I should really start with thanking all of you, on behalf of the family, for being Aunt Jane’s ‘journey-men’ throughout the past 75 odd years of her long life; for your companionship, your kindness, and your protection, and for ensuring her comfort and needs were met until the very end. We were not there, but I can assure you, you will remain in our prayers always. Thank you. A special thanks must go to Sister Jean, for being TJ’s greatest friend, and travelling companion, and for putting up with this crazy, mad family. It is said “Your friend is your needs answered” - indeed you answered TJ’s every need. 

Our Father, Tony, was TJ’s brother - she the eldest; he, next in line; followed some years later by Susan, and then Tim. Dad had 4 children, out in SA; Sue, two, and Tim, none. We are, along with Sara, our second cousin, the last of Jane’s remaining family. Over the course of the past few days I have spoken to my siblings, first cousins, and Sara, and asked about their memories of Jane, and I would like to present to you now a ‘potted’ version of our aunt’s early history. 

Jane’s parents met during a hunt in Southern Ireland, when Captain Jack Barret assisted a much younger than himself, Phyllis Wall, after she was thrown from her mount, the story goes - and so began their love affair. 

On their marriage, Phyllis’s mother gifted them with a hunting lodge for their new home, in Navan, in County Meath, Ireland, where the 4 children were born. As something of a gentleman farmer, Jack and Phyllis’s children grew up hunting, shooting, and fishing, on their large estate, and Dad always maintained that it was Jane who was the finest rider of them all, as youngsters.  He also held that she was, without question, his father’s favourite child, because of it!

Typical of the time and place, the 4 children grew up with nannies, cooks, and governesses seeing to them, and were allowed to take afternoon tea with their parents. Our Mum always joked that Dad would rather have liked us to have been raised in similar fashion, only our home didn’t have a ‘left wing’! 

Their Father was extremely strict with them, and seems to have been somewhat remote. We know little of their Mother’s relationship to her children. They enjoyed seaside holidays in England, and a busy and active social life in Ireland, surrounded by friends and animals. Dad always said that Jane was particularly close to their maternal grandmother - a devout Catholic.

In time Jane and Dad were sent off to separate Catholic boarding schools, but the siblings remained close always, and it was Dad who was the first to know of Jane’s plans to enter the convent - which came as something of a surprise to him at the time. He was sure, up until then, that she would do something with horses; as was their father, who was absolutely devastated by his beloved eldest child’s decision to enter religious life, and tried everything to convince her otherwise, to no avail. Both Dad, and Sue, maintain that Jane was adamant, and would not be swayed. I think Jane was rather an adamant person - and couple that with a vocation - and the rest is history.

Her siblings remember their father not allowing her name to be mentioned once she left home, on pain of being asked to leave his company, and it was not until a number of years later, when their Mum arranged a ‘chance’ encounter, and he saw how very happy his beloved daughter was in the convent that he relented, and the two of them were reconciled.

Jane always featured very large in our lives - Dad was invalided out of the Army, after a year in hospital with rheumatic fever, and sent to SA and warmer climes, and of all the family he missed Jane the most. He admired her, and her determination and conviction, and of course, was deeply grateful for her prayers. They always stayed in touch, and on the few occasions when he visited the UK never missed an opportunity to spend precious time with her. 

I can hardly recall a childhood lunch when Jane was not part of the conversation. Her faith and faithfulness; her bravery in the face of the tremendous pain she suffered after her fall in the library, when she damaged her back so badly; along with stories of their shared childhood exploits; updates on all our distant relatives, in the UK, and elsewhere, with whom Jane kept in touch so efficiently; her opinions on UK issues - political and otherwise; wise words she had shared with Mum and Dad when they spoke were all part of the mix. 

It was only about 20 years ago that I finally got to meet TJ in person, when my beloved Mum and I visited her down in Mayfield, and then there were a few subsequent visits to Mayfield, and later to Oxford. What happy memories I have of those meetings : being shown around Mayfield; walking through Canterbury and the Cathedral; getting to see a family of foxes up close; being taken to Ashdown Forest to see Poohsticks Bridge; being spoilt with dinner at a posh restaurant in Oxford. We shared an interest in the enneagram, which I continue to study and work with today.

For Johnner, and his sister, Chick, Sue’s children, it was a little different, as although the majority of their lives has been spent in the US, they did spend some years in the UK, and got to know Jane and Tim. Johnner recalls the very thoughtful presents TJ would send.

Over the years we received personal letters from her - what a thrill! We received beautiful calendars, showing places she and Jean had holidayed in; updates on Sue and Tim, and always her prayers, which she offered up for her nieces and nephews in SA, and those in America.

Oh, how grateful I grew for her prayers - over my unwanted divorce; Dad’s failing health; the untimely death of our beloved brother, Bruce, leaving behind a little boy of 2; Dad’s death 7 months later, and Mum’s, during the pandemic. 

And now, she is gone. And her prayers with her. And we, as a family, have lost her constant, and consistent presence in our lives, for which we are the poorer. Quietly, steadfastly there, like the Lord himself, she has guided us all to a lesser or greater extent over the years, and we will miss her.


I was always a little terrified of TJ; as though I didn’t measure up; I always felt she wore this disapproving stare, which I found somewhat intimidating; and yet she could burst into peals of laughter, which were joyous, and she was insightful and wise, which I so admired. She was disciplined, principled, dignified and devout. 

Clearly a gifted horsewoman from early on, Jane’s great love of horses and dogs remained with her throughout her life. I recall visiting her in Mayfield, and there in her bedroom were the latest editions of various Point to Point magazines. 

We never knew her well, and no doubt anyone of you can attest to her deep and profound faith, better than I. I was amused to hear from Sister Jean that in latter months TJ would pretend to be asleep rather than dealing with unwelcome guests. I could just picture her!

TJ was not the only religious in our family, from what we know. There was an uncle, way back - an archbishop, who was tortured while doing missionary work in the Americas, and had his palms burnt and then bound together so they grew fused in prayer. 

In Johnner’s letter of last week he writes that Aunt Jane told her sister that there were special benefits of having a nun for a sister - but we’ve agreed not to test that too far!

I think we have just always known that as a family we are blessed to have had our own ‘praying nun aunt’, and perhaps in losing her, we are called to take up a firmer, deeper commitment to our faith for ourselves.

Jane, thank you. May flights of angels guide thee to thou rest. 

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