Hannah Spillane, born on June 14,1926, was the fourth of nine children born to Timothy and Mary Spillane in Castle Gregory, County Kerry, Ireland. Hannah had four brothers: Patrick, John Joseph, Dennis and Thomas. She had four sisters: Mary, Noreen, Eileen and Catherine. On November 12, 1940, Hannah was accepted as an aspirant for the US missions with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Cabra, County Down, Northern Ireland. Because of the war in Europe, travel to the US was delayed and Hannah moved to Nottingham, England. She received the habit on Feb. 2,1942 and was given the name Sister Mary Baptista. She made her novitiate with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Nottingham, England. On Sept. 8, 1944, Sister Baptista pronounced her First Vows.
From 1941 to 1945, Sr. Baptista served in ministries sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Sacred Heart Province in Carstairs, Scotland, Nottingham and Stonyhurst, England. In April, 1946, she traveled to Jersey City, New Jersey and in August, 1946, Sr. Baptista was assigned to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bern, NC. After six months, she began 18 years of ministry in New Jersey to orphan boys and girls in North Bergen, Jersey City, Englewood Cliffs and Rockleigh. In 1954, Sr. Baptista suffered the sad loss of her father's death through drowning. Her next assignment to Saddle River, NJ in 1965 was the Chaplain's House at the Villa Marie Claire. Nine years later Sr. Baptista was assigned to be an EEG Technician at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ. She served in this ministry for 12 years, and was named Employee of the Month for May, 1984. Tom Doolan, Administrator wrote, "In your ten years of employment, physicians and patients have praised you for your job excellence. Your kindness, consideration and pleasant manner have relaxed worried patients and helped make their hospital stay more pleasant."
In 1989, Sr. Baptista moved to St. Michael Villa to work in the Infirmary and the Dining Room. During this time, she enrolled in an art course, and was surprised and pleased to discover that she had real artistic talent. Sr. Baptista received permission and funds to take additional art courses. In 1992, she moved to St. Ann's Home in Jersey City to minister with social services. She served here until 2003 when various health problems sent her to the Infirmary at St. Michael's. Sr. Baptista was a tireless worker and enjoyed a close knit family.
She died on February 29, 2016. Her funeral Mass was offered in the Chapel at St. Michael's Villa. Sr. Baptista was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, No. Arlington, NJ. She was survived by four sisters, one brother and many nieces and nephews. On her 70th Jubilee, Sr. Baptista wrote"Thank God for the gift of life, family and friends, partners in ministry and the opportunity to live and grow as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace for 70 years."
"We must be signs of hope and healing in the midst of the cultural reality in which we find ourselves."
Ann Rutan, CSJP