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The Hannigan way: What can we do to help you out?

Frank and Marianna HanniganFrank and Marianna HanniganA Mass of Christian Burial for Marianna Hannigan was celebrated this morning in St. Mark’s Church. It was just two weeks ago that the family buried her husband, Frank Hannigan.

In their life together, the Hannigans were united in service to their family, to St. Mark’s parish, and to the larger Dorchester community. A longtime teacher of English at Boston Latin School, Frank lectored at Sunday Masses until he was too sick to leave home; he died in a nursing home in late June. Educated as a social worker, Marianna was involved in all sorts of charitable good works over her lifetime; at the church, she served on the altar as a eucharistic minister. But when her husband died, she remained in the hospital, too ill to attend the wake or his funeral Mass.

Separated for months late in their lives, the Hannigans, whose kind sense of good works was legendary among their friends and acquaintances, are together now in death.

Almost nine years ago, when my wife Mary was in the late stages of living with pancreatic cancer, there came a time when our family needed a special duty health care worker to keep watch with her during the overnight. A friend suggested that we call Marianna and explain our needs; by that night, she had arranged for someone to be there for us. We came to think of it as the “Hannigan Lifeline” – she was always there to help when help was needed.

In St. Mark’s parish, the names Marianna and Frank Hannigan were synonymous with the words “Christian charity.” That Catholic parish is perhaps the most diverse in the city, with large numbers of immigrants from Ireland, Vietnam, and Africa. The pastor, Rev. Dan Finn, somehow seemed always to have a visiting priest from Asia or Africa ministering to the faithful, and one of them was a priest from Uganda, Father Emanuel Mwerekande, who became a friend to many. When Father Emanuel told about the wretched conditions in his native Ugandan village, the parishioners organized a “Friends of the Sick and Poor” (FOSAP), and raised funds to ensure a clean water supply and to find solutions for the lack of access to clean water and the frequent consumption of contaminated water. Typically, Marianna was in the middle of those efforts, and she served as treasurer of the non-profit.

Jim Hunt Jr., a longtime friend, relayed word of her death in an e-mail last weekend: “I am very saddened to report that my dear friend, Marianna Doyle Hannigan, passed away on Saturday following a very brief 12-week illness. Her husband Frank pre-deceased her by just two weeks. As you all know Marianna was a unique person, adopting five small children many years ago when Frank’s first wife Rita died at an early age. They were all at her side as she struggled over the past few weeks.”

For his part, Father Finn has lost two pillars of his parish community. “Her phone number was programmed in my head. … I would just pick up the phone and call her whenever I needed her help. If she couldn’t do it, she would know someone who could. And she would not rest until it got done.”
Frank and Marianna Hannigan leave five children, a son in-law, a daughter in-law, and four grandchildren. They also leave a legacy of charitable good works that is, simply, immeasurable.