When asked recently what her favorite position had been during her 44-year career in Faith Formation Ministry, Nancy Hardy answered immediately: “The Diocese.” That’s the Diocese of Orange, where Nancy served as Director of Parish Faith Formation for eight years, beginning in 2004. While her role in the Diocese was not her final professional position, it did mark the peak of a career spanning over four decades and four states.
Having completed a BA in Sociology at Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan, Nancy started off her career as director of religious education at St. Agatha’s in Columbus, Ohio. She then moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a similar role at St. Joseph’s. It was at this time, during a diocesan meeting on youth ministry, that she experienced a turning point. The discussion was about “how to get the kids back into youth ministry.” Nancy, the youngest at the table, listened intently and then ventured a question. “Umm, where did they go, and when did they leave?”
As she would tell this story, all eyes at the table turned to this upstart young woman as if she were from another planet, dumbfounded by the directness and pertinence of the question. A young priest, William Fitzgerald, contacted her shortly afterwards and said, “You have some great insights, but you need education so that you can express them with credibility.” He then offered to make her car payments for her if she would enter grad school; she did so. Her MA (the first of several) was in Early Adolescent Development.
Completing this degree, Nancy was hired at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Lansing, Michigan. Interestingly, on her first day, a new music director also started his work at the same parish; his name was Rick Hardy and the two would be married several years later.
At IHM, Nancy developed an approach to Middle School ministry based on adolescent development. Early adolescents, she theorized, are very focused on their own issues as they transition from childhood to adolescence. Why not, she asked, make these issues the curriculum for their faith formation experience?
Nancy became familiar with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, received the training for Levels I and II. It became her love in ministry from that time on.
In early 2004, Nancy was hired as the Director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. Still a devotee of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Nancy established an Atrium in the Diocesan library at Marywood. Here, visitors and professionals from across the Diocese and beyond could actually see how this remarkable Montessori-based catechetical method worked. She held trainings and demonstrations in this facility regularly.
Nancy was granted the Doctor of Ministry degree in May of 2019. It was at this time that two small emboli were discovered in her lungs; this led to the discovery of a more complex, unusual form of pulmonary hypertension. She spent her summer undergoing diagnostic tests and then contracted pneumonia. She succumbed to complications from this and the underlying condition on September 24, 2019.
Nancy was remembered at the Mass of Christian Burial at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center on October 1, 2019, and in a Memorial Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Lansing, Michigan on October 7. She will be interred at the Cathedral Memorial Gardens on November 8, following a Mass in the Tower of Hope Chapel at 10 a.m. A lunch reception will follow in the Cultural Center.
Nancy’s husband, Rick, said of the three-part celebration, “Nancy and I knew at the time of our marriage that we would not have children of our own. These communities of faith have been our family. It has been the gift of a lifetime to share life and ministry with Nancy. Everyone she touched is a better person for having known her, and I am a better person for having been married to her.”
According to former chancellor of the Diocese of Orange, Shirl Giacomi, “Nancy was a great minister in our Church. She will be greatly missed.
But her legacy lives on in the people she ministered to and programs she initiated.”