By Steve Hemphill
A faith journey can lead you down a path that sometimes unfolds right in front of you. For many, this journey can be difficult or bewildering at times and transcendent at others. For alumna Mary Jane Hardy ’63 BS, her faith journey has taken her through San Antonio history and back.
Hardy, a retired educator of 15 years in the Harlandale and Southside school districts, recently authored, “Spiritual Treasures of Downtown San Antonio.” The book outlines a brief history of numerous downtown churches that many in San Antonio, both locals and tourists alike, pass every day, often without a second glance. Some of the churches included in the publication include St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and San Fernando Cathedral. Her attention to detail as well as her focus on local historical human interest stories makes this book a must read for any San Antonian.
Hardy’s journey began in local churches including St. Mary’s Catholic Church as well as the Chapel of the Incarnate Word during her college years. In 1963, with a passion for teaching, she graduated with a degree in education. Along the way, she taught numerous students and told many stories.
“My passion for teaching was driven by the sacrifices that my family, and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word have made throughout their lives,” said Hardy.
About fifteen years ago, her faith journey found her once again downtown, although for different reasons. Her husband, Kenneth, had fallen ill and his treatments led them to revisit these downtown treasures to seek out prayer and consolation. While frequenting the downtown churches, they made a promise to share the history of these beautiful treasures with others. Together, they began research to create a pamphlet. As her husband’s condition worsened and she started treatment for breast cancer, the research waned. When he passed away more than four years ago, Hardy committed herself to fulfilling the promise she made with her husband.
As she resumed her research, she started to reflect on how her own children had missed out on these treasures and planned to write about them in more detail to share these unique stories with future generations. The project grew from a pamphlet to a book. Writing the book led her out of her comfort zone forcing her to practice many skills she never knew she possessed. “The process was so much more than I realized it would be. It was a great experience learning the business side of publishing a book,” said Hardy.
Throughout the last ten years, Hardy continued her research, talked with many people, visited and worshipped with numerous downtown churches all the while working on her promise to complete the book. As her writing progressed, she decided to pay a visit to her former English teacher, Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery, CCVI. In Slattery, she found a determined editor and mentor to push her through the difficult writing and rewriting process. When Hardy was discouraged by setbacks, Slattery would encourage her to pray and over time, this faith journey unfolded.
“I am grateful to Sr. Slattery for her high caliber editing skills as well as the patient but firm way she guided me through the process,” said Hardy.
Throughout the writing and editing process, Hardy found volunteers ready to take on the needs of developing and completing the research that would ultimately result in the completed work.
As she came to the finish of her project, there was one last barrier. Printing the book would be very costly. An anonymous donor, who many years earlier had promised to help publish the pamphlet, made good on a promise to see this project through to completion and with that, this treasure about downtown San Antonio became a reality.
In return for the generosity of the anonymous donor, Hardy offered to have one hundred percent of the proceeds benefit the donor’s charity of choice, the Down Syndrome Foundation.
Today over 700 books have been sold and over $6,320 has been gifted to the Down Syndrome Foundation.
Hardy’s faith journey is not yet complete. She is already talking about a sequel, and of course the first church on her list to highlight is the Chapel of the Incarnate Word. With momentum on her side and a passion for sharing history with others, she looks to meet the challenge and continue her life’s passion of educating people for years to come.
See page 2 for additional information.