Linked with The Lagan College.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Sister Anna Hoare has been working for peace all her life. Her major achievement was the creation of the first Protestant and Catholic integrated school, Lagan College, in Northern Ireland. Today there are over 50 integrated schools in Northern Ireland, with a total student body of over 12,000. Her work has been a beacon to the communities she has directly served and an exemplum of what is possible in one of the most unstable and violent regions. In 2003 at the age of eighty-six Sister Anna Hoare returned to live with ‘The Community of the Sisters of the Love of God’ in their convent in Oxford. Her residence there, in one of England’s most famous university towns, could not be more different from her last abode: a small house situated in the middle of the conflict zone in Northern Ireland, where she served for thirty-one years. It is difficult to distinguish where her religious duties end and where her activism begins – so finely intertwined as they are … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
She says: … “We all share a common humanity that enables us to live and work together”.
Sorry, no photo found for Anna Hoare Sr. – England
1000peacewomen 2/2: … What Sr Anna Hoare achieved in Northern Ireland was radical in its intent and has had far reaching consequences that perhaps even she, at the time she began her work, could not have envisaged. In a region that has been torn apart by sectarian hatred and violence her work has helped to get Protestants and Catholics closer to understanding and coexistence.
Anna Hoare was born in Bath, England in 1917, one year before the World War I ended. After her schooling and obtaining a first degree she moved to Oxford where she completed her M.A. in Theology. From 1943-1948 she was based at Wistow Training Center where, with Gunter Schweitzer, she provided ecumenical training to refugees from Nazi Germany. There, she lectured on Old Testament Studies and early Christianity.
For the Nazis, any trace of Jewish ancestry was sufficient proof of ‘Jewishness’ and hence, impurity. The trainees at Wistow were German Christians, many of whom were oblivious to the Jewish identity of their forbears. They considered themselves, above all, to be German and many planned to return to Germany and help in its reconstruction.
After her time at Wistow Anna Hoare lived as a recluse, then as a pilgrim. In 1970 she received her calling and on 16th November of that year she was confessed. ‘God pushed me to take my vows,’ she says. She attempted to live in her Order’s community but strongly felt that her calling was to be a pilgrim, living, as she says, ‘without any props.’ She adds that ‘I felt God was asking me to go out into the world with nothing and that He would lead me.’
The Order into which she had been confessed could not understand such a choice; it was then that she had the great fortune to meet and speak to the Mother Superior of the ‘Community of the Sisters of the Love of God.’ She received Episcopal permission from the Mother Superior to be actively engaged as a social worker.
During this period Sr Anna lived in Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, France and Greece, and in these years she learnt a range of languages. In 1972 Mother Teresa asked the ‘Community of the Sisters of the Love of God’ (hence, ‘Community’) to join her Order in Northern Ireland in their peace-building work. As the ‘Community’ is an enclosed contemplative society it could not accept Mother Teresa’s offer.
Sr Anna, however, who stood both within the ‘Community’ but beyond its covenant, accepted the behest of the Mother Superior. If the period in which Sr Anna worked with German refugees was an important watermark in her life, the second and perhaps most significant contribution she would make to peace efforts was her work in Northern Ireland.
When, in 1972, she moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, it was the early years of ‘The Troubles’ – the increased violence that began in the late 60s and only came to an end in the 90s. As a result, the prevailing ‘ghettoization’ of Catholics and Protestants was exacerbated and the British Army was called onto the streets, an act which intensified yet hostility and violence. From 1968- 1994 over 3,5000 people died and over 35,000 were injured due to sectarian violence.
One of the most brutal periods in Ireland’s modern history was brought to an end by the peace process ‘which included the declaration of ceasefire by some paramilitary organizations, the withdrawal of most troops from the streets and the creation of a new police force in a series of reforms. This declaration is most notably known as the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the Good Friday Agreement),’ says Sr Anna.
Throughout her life Sr. Anna’s leitmotif has been, ‘so that they are one.’ With this in mind, under the umbrella of an organization that she established – ‘Children’s Community Holidays’ – she initiated joint holidays for children from both confessions. As a result of this scheme up to one thousand school children every year spend their holidays in Northern Ireland. For many children this has been the first contact they ever had with children from other confessions. Following the success of this program she began another initiative, ‘All Children Together’ and from this was born, in 1981, the first integrated Protestant and Catholic school in Northern Ireland, Lagan College.
In a region where ecumenical differences are frequently portrayed in political terms – a program that unites the two groups, not just at the discussion table, but in a process where they live, learn and make friends with one another and hopefully, where such artificial barriers are irrevocably broken down – Lagan College is an milestone symbol of peace. Through theological advice and political support of the community, Sr Anna has worked with school children, parents and teachers of Lagan College. As other integrated schools have been set up (by 1999 there were fifty such schools with a total enrolment of over 12,000 students) she has offered her services and her guidance to them.
Once Lagan College was set up she began to fundraise for two chaplains: one Catholic, one Protestant. In 1995 she established a foundation to insure that the school would continue to run smoothly, funds would be available in a strong spiritual atmosphere. She lectured worldwide on the political situation and the peace movement in Northern Ireland. As a tirelessly governor, trustee and fundraiser for the foundation, Sr Anna worked to insure that young people have the opportunity to learn about one another and to be tolerant about other denominations and religions. Therefore her fundraising for Lagan College has continued unabated.
While Lagan College has been the focal point of her peace work she has also played a central role in the women’s peace movement in Northern Ireland, and in this regard she was one of the founding members of the ‘Women’s Coalition’, an organization which has worked on justice and peace issues. Her work with young people of both confessions and the creation of Lagan College has timely helped in placating the tense and often hostile relationships between Catholics and Protestants. The potential for violence was great; suburbs, schools, and leisure centers were separated along sectarian lines.
Lagan College’s purpose is to break down barriers of ‘us’ and ‘them’ by fostering a climate of reconciliation and understanding. Students from both denominations study together and learn how to co-exist peacefully with one another. As more and more alumni emerge from Lagan College and Northern Ireland’s other integrated schools it is hoped that by sharing their experiences with their colleagues, families and friends they can produce a society in which peace and tolerance are not regarded as an aberration, but as the norm. Northern Ireland’s children will, in this way, be an example to their elders, an example of what is possible.
Sr Anna’s life outside of her Order has often demanded a superb ‘art of survival’. She herself, however, is dismissive of her own efforts and says, ‘the time was ripe for such an initiative.’ Sr. Anna is now completely blind, and yet remains energetic, forthright, and most importantly, a guiding force for the College. (on 1000peacewomen).
Community of the SISTERS OF THE LOVE OF GOD: