JOHANNA F. WOLFE (1914–1997)

Johanna Frances Wolfe, later Sister Mary Agatha, was born on January 17, 1914, on New Street, Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. She was the daughter of Richard Barrett Wolfe, a pharmacist who lived with his family above the shop, and Catherine Elizabeth Colbert Wolfe. Her siblings were Hanora Josephine (b. 1915), Cornelius Colbert “Con” (b. 1917), Richard Michael (b. 1919), and Michael Joseph Colbert (b. 1922). All of them became priests or nuns.

Wolfe’s parents were active nationalists before and during the War of Independence (1919–1921). Catherine Wolfe’s younger brother, Con Colbert, participated in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was one of fifteen men executed at Kilmainham jail, in Dublin. Dick Wolfe’s pharmacy became a hub of nationalist activity, and in 1920 it was damaged by the Black and Tans after the Irish Republican Army killed a local constable.

On September 8, 1931, Johanna Wolfe entered the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary (MSHR) at Killeshandra, County Cavan, becoming Sister Mary Agatha. The order was founded by Bishop Joseph Shanahan on March 7, 1924, to educate and work with the women of southern Nigeria. The convent in Killeshandra opened that year and the first ten members professed there on February 24, 1927. Half of them were sent to Nigeria the next year.

Sister Mary Agatha took her vows on October 9, 1934, and in March 1938 left Ireland to teach at the MSH missions in Ihiala, Nigeria. She later spent time in Enugu, Adazi, Port Harcourt, Ihitte, Onitsha, Adazi, Nsukka, and Okigwe, returning in 1965 to Killeshandra, where she continued to teach. In 1986, Sister Mary Agatha retired to the MSHR nursing home, and died at Saint Vincent’s Hospital, in Dublin, on December 5, 1997. She is buried at Shanganagh Cemetery, in Shankill, County Dublin.